So, that might leave one or two of you. If you have a toddler, or have idly flicked through the channels and come across CBeebies recently, you cannot possibly have failed to have seen a trailer for something called Minibeast Adventure with Jess. It’s a programme for children about wildlife. But, instead of featuring lions, tigers, elephants and bears, it contains animals that your child actually can meet on a face-to-face basis in their own environment, whether that environment is rolling acres, or a small back yard; and as such, I love it. Jess is a zoologist, is very enthusiastic, and her love and knowledge of the seemingly inconsequential creatures we choose to ignore/avoid/scream about/squash is evident. Anyone who can encourage a small child to get excited about a centipede is alright by me.
Now, I’ve always encouraged Thomas to peek at the little creatures who live in his surroundings, and I’m lucky that with a background in zoology I’ve probably got a reasonable knowledge of the critters that lurk in our garden. He loves me to pick up pots in the garden so he can peer at the beetles, woodlice, millipedes, worms, slugs and snails beneath. But I haven’t always been that keen to get to know some of them too personally. However, there’s nothing more encouraging to get you up close and personal to a (admittedly only medium-sized) house spider than the knowledge that if you show fear in front of your toddler, one of two things could happen, or possibly both:
- said toddler decides that minibeasts such as spiders are scary, horrible, and not worth sharing the world with, or…
- deciding that, as he gets older, it would be great fun to chase mummy around with a gargantuan house spider scrabbling in his hands.
I know which one is worse, and surprisingly, it’s not the thought of a hairy spider being thrown at me. A child without a love and understanding of the small creatures around him won’t make a connection to the environment and its precarious web of life.
It’s easy to care about a panda (though I have my reservations about them, but that’s another topic). It’s not so easy to love a slug. A few holes in a Hosta are nowadays acceptable sacrifices in order to see a child enthralled by animals he can encounter in his own domain. If this programme has encouraged a few more parents to get on their knees and wonder at a woodlouse with their child, then Jess, I salute you.