My toddler son enjoyed his first visit to the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld when he was 3 months old. Now, 3 years later he’s obsessed with the little black-and-whites. The rockhopper, he’ll inform you, has funny orange “hair” at the sides of his head and he hop, hop, hops from rock to rock. The gentoo has a gentle touch of white by her eyes. And the Adélie (emphasis on the eeeeeeeeee when we say it!) has a long white belly–again with the long E sound. (We’re big on mnemonics in our house: You hit, you sit… in time out. You throw, it will go–the toy–to time out. You get the idea!)
In addition to learning about the cold-climate penguins, we’ve also come to know a new little South American friend… the Magellanic penguin. On our behind-the-scenes tour we met the little fellow face to face. While the grown-ups bent down to stroke its back, our toddler stood eye to eye. Carefully he lifted his two-inch hand, trying hard to put his fingers together as instructed. (Since my son’s still working on fine motor coordination, the trainer/caregiver was allowed him to use his full hand to gently stroke the penguin’s feathers.)
From the time his size 10 1/2 feet step on to the “mover” (as he calls it), he’s looking up at his snowbound friends (although once in a while he’s checking out his reflection in the glass!). Sometimes I think his neck will get whiplash watching a penguin as it swims by at surprising speeds. At others I think he’ll go horse telling one of the kings to “jump, jump, JUMP” in the water before he gets to the end of the exhibit viewing area.
Ready or not, here he comes again… off the moving sidewalk, around the back (at the non-rider viewing area), poised at the beginning again… for another trip to see his feathered friends.