by Janice O’Donnell, Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum
I couldn’t have been more than five or six, yet I remember vividly the night my mother roused me from bed to see the kittens being born. Crouching in that dark closet, whispering, we watched mama cat lick clean those tiny bundles of fur and marveled at the miracle of birth. Another childhood memory involves finding some interesting looking cocoons on a ramble through the woods and bringing them home to add to my “nature collection.” They hatched some days later and my room swarmed with miniscule praying mantises. (I thought that was pretty cool, but my mother was not pleased.) I remember digging up earthworms in the garden, watching hermit crab masquerade balls in tide pools, keeping tadpoles in jars until they grew legs and turned into frogs. And there was the summer we rescued baby bunnies whose nest was exposed after the haying. We made them a cozy bed of rags, grass and cotton and used an eyedropper to feed them warm milk. Two died, but one grew big and strong enough to be returned to the wild.
Kids learn a lot from critters. Through their relationships with animals, they encounter birth and death. By closely observing living things, they develop a sense of wonder about the natural world. Caring for pets helps them become responsible and compassionate human beings. They can also learn a lot from the people who study, raise and work with animals. Grown-ups who share their enthusiasm and knowledge with children impart far more than information. They communicate their passion for learning and their respect for nonhuman creatures. That’s why visiting animals and their human friends are a regular part of the Children’s Museum’s offerings. Plus, bugs, birds and beasts fascinate children – as well as adults who have retained their sense of wonder.
Every Monday this August, Museum visitors will meet and learn about animals great and small. Providence’s Mounted Police will introduce their majestic steeds and tell children about the kind of work police horses do and how they are trained and cared for. Kids will linger with a lizard, meet a boa constrictor and a blue-tongued skink, and encounter an American alligator and an African tortoise from Animal Experiences. Members of the Providence County Kennel Club will be on hand with their purebred pups, from tiny toys to an awesome Great Dane, for the most hands-on dog show you’ll ever see. And marine life experts from Biomes will bring along a traveling tide pool so kids can examine crabs, from the scuttling varieties to the lumbering horseshoe, sea stars, periwinkles and more.
Kids and critters – it’s a natural combination. And we can all delight in and benefit from meeting and learning about the creatures with whom we share the earth.
Photo above: Grace Carey meets a friendly snake – one of many creatures kids encounter at Animals in August at Providence Children’s Museum.
News and Notes from the Providence Children’s Museum. The museum shares their vast knowledge about kids and parents in this monthly column. Learn about things to do with our kids – from places to go, things to make, things to think about, and more. Providence Children’s Museum – 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS).