By Js Kendrick
I hope you like nature. As in bugs. This post has bugs, and toads, and a frog for fun. Creepy, icky, things, and children’s love of them, is what this post is about today. If you have children, or are thinking of having children. You might want to take notes.
Case in point, Mr. Toad (No not the one above) was a perennial visitor to our porch when my older daughters were younger. One night I stepped out and saw Mr. Toad just sitting there. I figured, hey! What a great learning experience! So I called out to my daughter Jenelle. She was about 4 at the time.
“Hey Jenelle, come see whose on the porch!” Being cutesy about it all.
Jenelle comes out, I point to Mr. Toad. Eyes grow wide, slight shake of the knees. Points inside the house.
“I’m going inside now.” She announces in terror. Never to come out for the rest of the night.
She of course learned to love toads, frogs…well there was that poison dart frog she killed, but it was just a case of mistaken identity…and other creepy things when she was younger. Her sister Kayla too.
Kids generally do like the creepiest of things. Depending, certain creatures have to be explained. Like Harvest Mites, which look like a spider but aren’t. They’re pretty harmless unless your believe everything Abraham Lincoln posts on Facebook.
Over the years I’ve had the good luck to find critters and give my children a quick explanation on what they were and how they fit into our ecosystem. The migration of Monarch Butterflies is always an interesting tale for children. Also the story of the Viceroy Butterfly who mimics the Monarch is just as fascination. It’s a good lesson in deception that will help them later in life when they date.
One thing about my four children I did not expect was the boy. Now while each of his sisters didn’t mind bugs and other critters growing up, at 6 years of age, Nick is obsessed with them. He hunts them out and captures them only to ask me to identify them. I’m not an entomologist, nor am I a zoologist. So I have to give him some rules to follow.
1.) Don’t pick up anything you haven’t picked up before without my approval. Some may bite, sting, or suck your blood.
2.) Never pick up a wild animal. The key word is Wild and it will go bad quickly. Squirrels are not ‘pets’. If you see one hurt, get an adult.
3.) Baby birds are best left in their nests (He asked for me to take one down once) and if you find one on the ground. Leave it be. Especially if it is a BlueJay’s fledgling. Mom and Dad have very sharp beaks. I know this from personal experience.
4.) Definitely leave the black and white kitty with the bushy tail alone when you see them. You will regret it, and I do not stock that much tomato juice in the house.
5.) Sticks that move on their own are a type of insect. Walking Sticks. Branches that move on their own are called Snakes. Back away, don’t touch, tell a grown-up.
6.) Leave little bunnies alone. They aren’t abandoned, their mommies leave them in a safe place while they eat. They’re fine, exactly where they are at.
7.) That is not a loose dog, that is a coyote. He’s fine, keep your distance.
8.) No, you can not pet the wild turkeys.
9.) And finally, if you don’t know what it is, leave it be. Ask an adult.
10.) Oh! I’m not sure why there aren’t any cicadas in our yard this year, they go in cycles.
Explaining nature to kids is a fun thing to do. Yes, bugs can be creepy, slimy, icky, and yeah…nasty. But they open up a child’s mind to a bigger world. They learn that this planet is pretty big and we humans share it with a host of other critters. Some are nice, like our pet cats and dog. Others like bees and wasps have to be given their distance. Respect them and they will respect you. Except Honey Badgers, they don’t respect anything. Please note, Honey Badgers are not indigenous to the Americas, Europe or Australia. Be thankful for that. My sincerest best wishes never to meet one for the rest of the world.
The trick of course is cute does not equal safe. Black Bears are very cute looking. But they are still a bear. Many people get tricked by that every year. YouTube is full of videos that show what happens when you assume cute is safe.
Look but don’t touch has been my motto over the years with my kids. Some critters are okay, as in having a butterfly or moth land on you. Yet others, such as Tussock moth caterpillar, are not to be touched. Kids are of course curious, so their hands work faster than their little brains sometimes. Yet as I help them explore nature ( often with the help of google) I hope they learn to appreciate it more. And eventually, pass this knowledge onto their children in time.