A guide to keep your kids happy on safari
You and your kids are on your well-earned annual holiday and this year you saved up for that safari lodge in the Kruger National Park – just to have another shot at seeing that elusive (illusive?) leopard you missed the other four times you were there. You had just entered the park after being parked and waiting since 5am, when the all too familiar echoes through the car: “Are we done yet Mommy?” Alas, the kids are finally awake… and already bored.
We have scoured the internet and found the best tips and tricks to keep your little ones entertained whilst you try and catch a glimpse of your leopard. We have split each section to give you tips for every age group, from babies to preschoolers. Any kids older than this should be able to keep themselves occupied and may even be interested in the safari activity itself.
Best tip: Plan ahead!
Keeping kids happy on a safari
Babies are usually entertained by adults… sorry no shortcut here. My suggestion here is to have some rattles, teething toys and little baby books on hand to keep them happy. A tip here is also for one parent to sit in the back with baby and other small children, whilst the older children sit upfront to be more involved in the safari with the other parent.
Also try to limit car trips to maximum three hours as babies really get uncomfortable in car seat or take regular breaks where baby can be taken out of the car seat when safe to do so.
Toddlers also usually still sit in car seats for safety so the regular breaks apply here too. However, we found entertaining games on the iPad or similar device to be our saving grace. There is a myriad of games available for toddlers on the iPad, see this article by Geeks with Juniors for the best apps out there.
If you do not have a device (or prefer not to use one), there are other ways to keep them entertained such as
- board games
- felt activity boards with the animals that they could see in the park (love this!)
- their favourite books
- some sing along music
Again, iPad apps have value to keep little ones entertained with games or movies when it really gets boring.
Other activities for preschoolers include
- board games
- books about the animals that they will get to see
- pipe cleaners of different colours to make animals that they get to see
- playing ‘I Spy’
- getting them a disposable camera to also take pictures in the park
- lucky packets to give them something ‘new’ to play with
Keeping kids cool on a safari
Most cars have air-conditioning these days, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury or simply want the windows open to take in the whole safari experience.
Blocking the sun is the easiest way to keep you baby cool on hot days in the car whilst on safari. There are window shields available from most baby stores, but if you don’t have one, a blanket secured by a closed window (or washing pegs if it has to be open for air) will work.
Babies need fluids to keep cool and can’t tell you when they are thirsty so give them fluids (breast or bottle milk) at their regular times should be sufficient. But if it is really hot, shorten the intervals to give them the option to fluids more regularly. For older babies, you can keep offering water or other fluids in between feeds to keep them hydrated.
Clothing should be layered to take off when it gets very hot and put back on when it cools down again.
Also, if you get out for a break, cover the metal buckles of the car seat as these can burn your baby when you put them back in again.
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Keeping cool could be as easy as filling a wipes container with some extra water and then wiping their faces, arms and legs down when it really gets hot.
Again, clothing should be layered and removed as need be. Also keep reminding them that they should take in some fluids and try make this a fun activity, like freezing water or juice in bottles before you leave making it ice cold or using a portable battery operated fan.
Keeping kids fed on a safari
Main tip: Ziploc bags and no spill snack containers are your best friend.
Breast or bottle fed infants will be fed at their normal time and more regular intervals if it is really hot. You can keep hot, boiled water in a flask for formula or even ask for some boiled water at any restaurant if any are close by. For older babies you can include their normal food in small containers; keeping them cool in a cooler box and heating them up if you need to by using hot water from a flask and putting the food containers in the boiling water when you want to heat it up.
Toddlers & Preschoolers
Put minimal mess snacks like popcorn, biltong, drywors, salami, sandwiches, cucumber and carrot sticks with cream cheese, yoghurt pots (semi-messy depending on their spoon skills), cheese, etc. in various ziploc bags or other containers. A great game to play is to have a map of the route you are on with various snacks and drinks (and rewards) along the way.
Keeping kids comfortable on a safari
A good all-rounder is a neck support pillow, just make sure it is age-appropriate and don’t hamper their breathing at all. Oh yes, and don’t forget their comfort sleep blankies (or other sleep aids) at home!
Car seats can become uncomfortable so ensure that you use the right seat accessories for the right age, for example a head support for infants. Babies rarely sleep over 3 hours at a time (my daughter’s naps lasted 45 minutes each time) so be sure to take them out regularly for breaks and nappy changes.
Other than this, make use of blankets to limit viewing when you see it is nearing nap time and cover their legs with a weather appropriate blanket when napping as body temperature drops when sleeping.
Most toddlers also use a car seat still and thus the same rules as for babies apply here (read above).
If your toddler is still using nappies, regular changes are advisable. If they are potty training, don’t forget the potty if possible or keep nappies in the car just in case of runny tummies. As a rule you should have some extra clothes, wet wipes and empty bags in the car in case of accidents.
If car seat is still being used, simply refer to the toddler section. If not, then some pillows and blankets go a long way.
We are not affiliated to the products or services mentioned in this article, in any way. It is mentioned as a result of our own experiences.
We endeavour to check all information for accuracy upon writing the article. If this information is outdated or wrong, please let us know and we will gladly amend it where need be.
For more things to do, see and experience in Southern Africa why not go to the following pages to get inspired: