Our school holiday or winter break this year was 16 days long – basically half of a month. Going from the daily routine of school where meals, rest time, bed time and play is all perfectly scheduled, this amount of time off can really shake up kids, and even more so parents.
One of New Orleans’ best kept secrets in my opinion are the holiday zoo camps offered at Audubon Zoo. Manager Charlotte Page, an old friend I’ve known for many years ago since my own sleep-away camp in Brevard, North Carolina, is a seasoned veteran in the world of camps. She knows better than anyone that camp is an institution where kids can satisfy their need for physical play, creative expression and cooperation in their community. Camp helps build tools that allow children to gain self-esteem, self-reliance and pro-social behaviors by meeting new children. This helps kids practice working together, making choices and taking responsibility. They also experience interactions with positive role models in the camp counselors and interact with these adults in a way that’s sometimes more relaxing and reflective than their normal school environments. The camp experience offers this nurturing environment that allows children to develop their creative skills, build independence and self-reliance in order to gain confidence.
If your child has a passion for animals, or is just looking for something new that’s fun, Zoo Camp at Audubon Zoo is the place to be! Besides being offered during most school holidays, zoo camp is also offered during the summer. Children are engaged in many activities, carefully crafted around a curriculum that incorporates the love of animals along with arts and crafts. Daily zoo time is, of course, a part of camp, as well as lots of animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours. My kids came home telling me about their train rides to each of the animal dens, and they were spouting off knowledge about the length of giraffe’s neck! They also have lots of time to explore nature and free time to play outdoors. With its beautiful oak trees and lush greenery surrounding, I can imagine no better place for a child to roam free.
For summer campers, the fun doesn’t stop there. The cool zoo and the lazy river are now a part of the weekly schedule! The cool zoo and lazy river are described as “a wild and wet splash park … Highlights include Gator Run, jumping water spouts, a huge alligator water slide, spider monkey soakers and water-spitting snakes. … The splash park offers three different splash zones with one area specifically for toddlers and younger kids. … Visitor favorites include the 750-foot lazy river with two sand beaches, lounge chairs, four water cannons, two water curtains and jumping jets. … Gator Run also offers a food cart concession area, outdoor seating, additional showers and restrooms. Rafts are free for all floaters and kids under 48 inches will need a life jacket (supplied by Audubon Zoo).”
At Zoo Camp, you can be sure that your Campers are in a very nurturing environment. They are arranged into classes by age groups that extend to 4-12 years and are supervised four to five staff per group. Each group is led by a certified teacher or Zoo Camp Expert. The camper to counselor ratio is one to six. Camp offers a discounted rate to zoo members, and camp tuition varies depending on length of session.
Just the Facts
• Fees: $250 per week for Members; $295 per week for non-members
• Camp runs: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Before care ($7 per day) available at 7:30 a.m.
• Aftercare ($10 per day) available to 5:30 p.m.
Per the zoo: “Audubon Nature Institute strives to accommodate all interested children. Please understand that our camps are very active, with multiple transitions and sensory changes throughout the day. All campers are expected to follow directions and safety rules. If you have specific concerns, please contact our camp director Charlotte Page at 212-5357 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your child’s needs. While we are a traditional camp (not specialized for specific special needs), we welcome all children and do our very best to accommodate every child.”