We watched wolves, fed lorikeets and flew over Europe, all without ever leaving Williamsburg, Virginia. The natural fun of walking, riding thrill rides, enjoying beautiful landscaping and learning about conservation was better than any iPad, Wii or Internet provider could have offered. We weren’t even deterred by a few drops of rain.
Along with a number of other bloggers, writers and website wonders, I was invited to a Mom and Me Meet-Up at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Mom Central founder Stacy DeBroff served as host. The event was organized in response to a recent survey by Mom Central Consulting on how moms, and parents in general, want to get kids unplugged from their various electronic devices and out into the natural world of the great outdoors.
In March of 2013, Mom Central Consulting surveyed 870 moms on behalf of Busch Gardens for their views on natural play, adventure and fun, and the need for more unstructured play in their children’s lives. The 30+ question survey was conducted online, and programmed and analyzed by Mom Central Consulting. All participants belonged to the Mom Central Consulting Testing Panel, which consists of 20,000 American moms spanning a wide variety of demographics.
The survey found that kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as riding bikes, playing outdoor games and exploring nature. On weekends, this activity level increases to just a bit more than two hours.
Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting,
“As parents we remember our own moms opening up the screen door on a summer day and telling us ‘go outside and play,’ and we did, playing with friends from the neighborhood, roller skating and concocting elaborate games. We fear we’re raising a generation of kids with ‘Natural Fun Deficiency’ who rarely play outside unless as part of planned activities and a coach nearby carrying a whistle and a clipboard.”
To find out more about this survey as well as read Stacy DeBroff’s tips on getting kids outside, please click here.
Mom and Me Meet-Up Fun at Busch Gardens
We were greeted by some of the park’s black-faced sheep.
The meet-up began with an incredible breakfast at Castle O’Sullivan. Chef Justin Watson, as always, did a great job with the selection and wide array of breakfast choices. It was delicious and quite kid-friendly. The “tablecloth” was a sheet of paper and there were markers, chalk and crayons for the kiddos to draw and doodle as much as they wanted.
Check out the chocolate chips on this muffin.
We then went around the room and introduced ourselves. If you know me, you know that public speaking is not my forte, but I did fine. I got to hold a mic, and I even remembered my name. The best part was hearing where everybody was from. I recognized a few familiar faces, and was pleasantly surprised by the large number of other Richmond moms and families at the event. There was even a family from the Charlottesville area.
Representatives from Busch Gardens, Mom Central founder Stacy DeBroff and Anita from the park’s zoology team kept us entertained with ride facts, animal encounters and more information on how natural fun can be enjoyed at Busch Gardens Parks.
Did you know that Busch Gardens offers interpreters for the hearing impaired? I did not, but was happy to find out about this guest amenity. The park offers assistive listening devices as well as sign language interpretation for their live shows. Please try to give a minimum of one weeks notice for this free feature by calling 757.253.3201 for reservations. Find more information in Busch Gardens’ 2013 Disabled Access Guide.
The kids were included in the presentation in a number of ways. When asked to name some ways we could all enjoy the “natural fun” of the outdoors, the kids came up with some great answers such as kayaking, picnicking, hiking, swimming, geocaching and a really cute “go to Busch Gardens country water.” She meant Water Country, of course, but we liked the idea of “country water.”
Fun animal presentations by Anita were a big hit. Here is a box turtle.
And then there was this …
Yikes! They did not know what they were going to be holding when they volunteered.
After all of the fun presentations were done, we were sent out into the park to “go wild,” and enjoy all of the natural fun that the park has to offer.
We learned about screech owls.
We really enjoyed the Secret Life of Predators show.
A tweeting party took place throughout the afternoon. Using the hashtag #NaturalFun and, of course, @buschGardensVA on Twitter, we were given the chance to win a free Birds of Prey Up-Close Tour. So, if you happen to be a follower of Busch Gardens (and you should be), that is what that was all about.
From the many tweets, one random mom and her family won an up-close encounter that included the chance to have a raptor fly into their (gloved) hand. It wasn’t us. My out-of-date iPod (yes, iPod) couldn’t seem to keep or get a connection, and I am not tech-savvy enough to figure it out. Come on August birthday and Samsung Galaxy (that’s a hint in case anybody is listening…). If you were that lucky winner, I would love to see photos and hear all about the experience.
We will be back to do one of the up-close tours at some point. I want to do the Collies and Clydesdales and the youngster wants to work with wolves. There is also a Roller Coaster Insider Tour, a Family Fun Tour with Sesame Street characters and animal encounters and an Ultimate Animal Insider Tour that includes wolves, Clydesdales, collies and several other animal tours.
For this visit, Lorikeet Glen was one of our favorites. You can purchase nectar and feed the birds. Watch out, because they will flock to anybody that has food.
We took in the “This is Oktoberfest” show in Das Festhaus. Normally, “Entwined: Tales of Good and Grimm” is the main Festhaus show.
About Mom Central
Mom Central Consulting is the leading social media consulting firm focused on the Mom Market. Their goal is to engage moms in powerful word-of-mouth programs. Their offices are located in Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada. Check them out online at MomCentral.com or visit their Facebook page.
Based on the Mom Central/Busch Gardens survey results, both moms and kids see technology as the culprit in kids spending less time playing outside. About 68 percent of moms think their kids spend too much time plugged in, and 44 percent of kids prefer texting to kickball.
“This survey found that moms would truly love for their family to play outside together and to experience relaxed, fun, outdoor activities, but real life – ranging from work obligations to carpools to running errands – gets in the way,” DeBroff said. “And the majority of moms feel that their family becomes closer when they spend time together outdoors and feel guilty when it doesn’t happen enough.”
To find out more about SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and other theme parks, including special offers, deals and coupons for Busch Gardens Williamsburg, please check out my column at Examiner.com. Also, there is one weekend left for Busch Gardens’ first-ever Food & Wine Festival. I highly recommend it.
From this …
To this …
And everything in between …
Busch Gardens has also put together a really cool section on their website about the idea of Natural Fun. They have listed tips and ways in which we can all participate at home. Check it out.
Here is the bag ‘o goodies from the Mom and Me Meet-Up. This bag is awesome, nice and roomy with sturdy leather handles, and who doesn’t love Cookie Monster? I can’t wait to put that park map puzzle together.
Thank you to Busch Gardens, Stacy DeBroff and Mom Central for this opportunity to check out all of the natural fun at Busch Gardens. Animals, conservation concerns, stunning landscaping and thrilling rides and shows kept us busy all day. We went home tired and happy.
Disclosure: The author received complimentary admission to the Mom and Me Meet-Up event as part of Busch Gardens’ Mom’s Advisory Panel. All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.