The prospect of seeing some exotic creatures quickly loses its appeal for tiny minds with their equally tiny attention spans, in my experience, when they realise even the most majestic of beasts can actually prove quite dull in the flesh.
But Twycross Zoo has to be one of the most small child-friendly zoos out there, with lots of open space for little ones to run around in, great play equipment and even a small water park for youngsters to cool down in during the summer. Another bonus is that it’s relatively compact, without feeling cramped.
If it’s big beasts you’re after, there are tigers and giraffes, but it’s the gibbons here which provide the best entertainment, for me, with their nonchalantly breathtaking acrobatics, while it’s also fascinating to watch the chimpanzees interacting with each other and their human spectators.
There’s now even more reason to take your little one, thanks to the launch of Twycross Zoo’s Gruffalo Discovery Land, where fans of the classic Julia Donaldson book can meet and interact with their favourite characters.
Our three-and-a-half-year-old loved the animatronic exhibits and puzzles, suitable for younger and older kids, plus the chance to spot some real owls along the way.
Seeing one of those owls snacking on some mice didn’t quite fit with the book’s plucky underdog narrative but you’re never too young to learn about the grim realities of nature.
As for the Gruffalo himself, our little one was thrilled to see him, and though he was rightly wary about getting too close to an avowed carnivore with ‘terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws’ – however friendly this one might have appeared – he was very happy to join in the Gruffalo dance.
There’s a cafe, a small playground, indoor areas with snippets of the BBC adaptation playing, and a shop – though, be warned if you’re dragged in there, Julia Donaldson merchandise doesn’t come cheap.
All in all, it’s a great addition to the zoo, which is only about a 75-minute drive from Sheffield.