A few weeks ago, Odin found this book about baby animals at our take it or leave it. The page with the baby sea turtles had him asking why the crab and seagull looked so threatening. I explained that the sea turtles had a very hard time making their way to the ocean because of other creatures and sometimes humans. He asked if those animals would try to eat the turtles (I have always been honest with Odin about everything), so I told him yes. He looked back down to the book and his lip began to quiver and his eyes filled with tears instantly. I immediately cradled him and tried to explain the circle of life (in the vaguest way) and then we talked about the things we could do to help the sea turtles. This conversation led to discussing other animals that are endangered and may need help from humans (and also how some are in danger because of humans).
This connection occurred at the perfect time. We’ve been big fans of Opposite of Far for some time now and Jessica always has a Mask of the Month Club, this year they are endangered animals. Not only does Jessica send you a new mask every month, but she includes the most amazing little collectable card with an illustration of the corresponding animal complete with facts about each. Odin is a collector, so the idea of keeping these as his own little collection was very exciting for him.
We’ve always had semi-directed play, usually with me following his lead. Soon after our conversation about sea turtles, these masks arrived and we talked about each animal. The next morning, we headed straight to the library to collect a couple books about endangered animals. Odin is almost three but seems to really want to know more about all the animals and what we can do to help those in need. With each book he will repeatedly hand one to me or Zak and ask us to tell him something about it, “tell me sumthin’ bout dis book.” Each page receives a “what’s dat?” or a “WOW!!” The Eyewitness books are his favorites because they have a large variety of photos and short little facts to go along with each.
The first he was attracted to was the Red Panda. We found the Red Panda in his favorite of the books we borrowed and read the little fact about them there. Because we couldn’t find anything about them in particular at the Library, we watched a little documentary together on the computer. We learned that they aren’t really a bear and are more closely related to the raccoon. We also learned that the females are only ready to mate one day out of the year (although I could not find any other information about this), that and the effects of poaching and habitat loss are a few of the reasons they are so vulnerable. They are also sneaky little animals who are hard to find in the wild, especially because they tend to live in places with heavy growth. The woman in the documentary that we watched searched the woods every day for about eight months before ever catching a glimpse of one. Odin thought they were so adorable and loved watching them play.
Odin’s cousin was over all week last week and together they had so much fun playing dress up. We talked about the endangered species we were learning about with Evelyn and both were eager to play the role of their species. Zak even joined in playing the role of the Amur Leopard (which are critically endangered, only about 60 wild leopards are thought to be alive). We haven’t focused as much on the Amur Leopard as we have with the other two, but we will throughout this week. The week before last, we focused a lot on the Polar Bear and Odin was eager to wear his mask out in the snow.
It’s so important to teach our kids about how precious these lives are and how human’s actions effect them and their habitats. It’s scary to watch an animal reach extinction, especially when we know the reasons. Odin is young still and doesn’t fully grasp the idea of an endangered species but he is an empath and he can understand fear and pain. He has always been close with the trees and it hurts him to see them harmed, so it’s been easy to relate those feelings to animals. We try to take a positive approach with everything in our lives and I try to encourage him to focus on the knowledge itself because knowledge IS power. If he is aware that our decisions affect others down the line, he will (ideally) grow into a compassionate human being who will make choices that will only improve our planet no matter how small those choices are.
Masks by the very talented Opposite of Far.