Non-Material Birthday Gifts

I think I’ve mentioned to you that my daughter loves elephants, so for her birthday last week I planned to take her to the Los Angeles Zoo to view their new Asian Elephant exhibit. I am lucky enough to have a few connections that allowed us to get a behind the scenes glimpse at how the elephants live. What is your kid’s favorite animal? Is there a local zoo you could visit? Most offer great kid’s programs. Or maybe there is some other activity that your child would enjoy doing on their big day? I think memories like these (will they remember this far back? well, there’s always pictures) are often the best birthday gifts of all.

The Los Angeles Zoo has done an amazing job of creating a home and caring for these majestic animals. Take a look at what we saw in the elephant exhibit at the LA Zoo after the jump…

Asian Elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo

First we met Billy. He was waiting for us right at the front of the exhibit.

We checked out these pretty elephants painted by artists from some of the countries where asian elephants live (cambodia, india, thailand)

We rode around in the zebra cart on the service road (which was nice since it was 96 degrees out). S was very excited to see…

…our favorite animal, the Chacoan Peccaries! The Prudent Dad and I were excited to find out that the Los Angeles zoo manages the world population of chacoan peccaries. Cool.

Scarlet really, really loved the zoo.

She also loved the drinking fountain.

Then we got to go inside the elephant’s house. Scarlet kept saying “I WANT TO GO TO ELEPHANT HOUSE.” This is an elephant drinking fountain. Billy sticks his trunk in there to drink.

Scarlet was a little scared of the loud sound of the doors. This room is the elephant containment unit where Billy gets his pedicures and sees the doctor.

Then it was time to go into the keeper’s area and see Billy up close.

The elephant gates are huge, with giant posts spaced closely enough that elephants can’t walk through, but people could run right in. I had to hold Scarlet back.  Not even the keepers go on the other side of the gate. Billy seems nice, but nobody touches him, he likes to be left alone to be an elephant.

Scarlet brought her baby elephant with her.

We got this close to Billy. He did some tricks for us, like standing on his back legs and growling on command. His growl scared S. Billy’s keepers have been with him for I think 18 years, they are a family. They exercise Billy, play games with him, and hide food for him around this gigantic exhibit. He is probably one of the strongest and best conditioned elephants in the country due to the dedication and care his keepers give to the health of his body and his mind.

Then his keeper fed him some yams. He ate so, so many. Scarlet wanted to feed him but that’s not our job.

Inside his house, we got to walk along the second floor, but the ground was an open grate and because you could see through it, we were a little scared.

But it was worth it because at the end of the walkway we got to see the two new lady elephants (elderly gals rescued from a circus) taking their very first shower!

Then the wonderful elephant keepers took us inside and showed us cool elephant bits. This is a piece of Billy’s tusk and Scarlet is pretending it is her tusk.

This is an elephant hair Scarlet is holding. Weird!

On our way out, Billy’s snack was being readied. These carrots are just a small portion of his snack, he also had lots and lots and lots of veggies and salad, more than Scarlet’s probably eaten in her whole lifetime, just for his afternoon treat. He eats 250 pounds of food a day!

Then, for the first time ever, Scarlet said “mommy, i’m feeling tired” and fell asleep in the car. At school, she told all of her friends about the big day while they learned the letter “E” – Good timing all around!

What kinds of non material birthday gifts do y’all have in mind this year?



Meg Ring

This is awesome! I would love to do behind the scenes stuff with the Zoo animals! ๐Ÿ™‚ It's so hot where we live (Phoenix, AZ area) that Zoo's really just aren't even an option for us. I can't imagine the critters would be roaming around where you could even see them at 120 degrees, so I think we'll be looking into an Aquarium for my baby's first birthday. I know she won't remember it, but it will be a fun thing to do together for the family.. and I just think aquariums are a little more interesting for a baby to follow (you don't have to search a desert landscape to find a shark ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Now we just have to find a nice aquarium that's close-ish.. but we love road trips too so we don't mind traveling a bit. ๐Ÿ˜€

April @ Sewing Novice

That's kind of funny that you posted this because for Lillian's 2nd birthday I think we are going to get a zoo membership. For us, just two trips pay for the membership.

mrs. olson

For our son's third birthday we took him to the Seattle Children's Museum instead of gifts. We all loved it and his cousin who shares a birthday with him came too. It was really fun and memorable!


This past Christmas, my close friends and I decided that we would give our kids an experience – rather than have them exchange gifts with each other. We took the kids for a visit to the Seattle aquarium, lunch, and looking at the cruise boats in the sound. They had a blast. Next year's experience will be the Zoo Lights at Woodland Park Zoo! So excited!


Oh most likely the zoo. I enjoyed the La zoo as a kid and i know macy would love it. I took her the the sd zoos wild animal park. for her first easter last year. she loooved it even then. i wore her the WHOLE time and lost like 8 lbs that day. Lol. it was awesome.

The Queen

All our gifts are material this year! But I don't feel too bad about it- my baby is turning 8 and pretty soon "toys" will be uncool. I am bringing her lunch and cupcakes for the class on her birthday at school. I know she'll LOVE being the big star at lunch that day. The whole cafeteria sings 'Happy Birthday.'


So so cool! Um, where is that adorable dress from? Please say a pattern because that's the budget we're on right now. : )


We did this for our daughter's third birthday. Mom, Dad and Aunt took her to the FL Aquarium in Tampa. It was a really fantastic place to take a little one, and it was indoors in the late June Florida heat!! They have a splash/spray play area for the kiddos to run around in outside, as well, for when they get tired of looking. This is a great idea.


I love this idea! I POLITELY requested to my son's grandparents that he not get any toys for his 2nd birthday this year so instead they chipped in and gave him a family membership to the zoo (including 2 free guests every time we go!) and a Kids Music Round class (we've gone once so far, he looooves it). I feel like these gifts are helping him develop his little brain way better than some dumb toys would. I don't know if he'll remember it but I'll have plenty of pictures to show him when he gets older.


Such a fun treat for the birthday girl. The St. Louis zoo has a lot a free after hour zoo programs. I feel so lucky to live so close to one of the best zoos in the country and it is FREE!

Lil Mama Stuart

you crack me up. love the picture of S gazing at the elephant drinking fountain. and thanks for the elephant facts haha. taking baby girl to a different Chicago museum for her birthday each year (Feb is cold!).


Wow! This looks like a lot of fun! The pics of S were so sweet! I could tell she was loving every minute! We just recently moved to a new city and have a fabulous zoo fairly close by! It has PENGUINS (my personal fav.), monkeys, giraffes, and more! I can't wait to take my sweet girl! I think she'll really enjoy seeing all of the animals. We took her last year (she was only about 6 months old) to our previous local zoo and she wasn't as impressed with the assortment of alpacas and sparrows she saw…hehe!


Great pics! The great-grandparents bought us a family zoo membership for Christmas this year and it has already been a great gift. Also, our zoo membership can get us discounts or free entry to other zoos across the country! We also bought season tickets to our local amusement park. Our DD is too young to go on most of the rides, but it includes free admission to their water park so I can't wait for warmer weather! We're only 10 minutes away so it will be a great way to spend a couple of hours AND still get her home for naptime!


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