Last week T and I popped along to her nursery for an hour as they had someone coming in with a few creatures for the children to look at. Despite Tuesday not being a regular day for T, they kindly invited us along anyway, and it was brilliant! An hour with a group of 1-3 years olds and several small animals. Here’s roughly how it went…
Children are sitting in a line having been taken to the toilet. Animal man (sorry animal man, I didn’t catch your name) attempts some conversation with them. Most of the children stare back in silence. He asks them what creatures they think he’s brought with him. Cue various hilarious suggestions. Dolphin? Cow? Elephant? Finally everyone is sitting down.
Animal man brings out some large African snails. “Snails!” shout the children. Animal man asks if the snails are like the ones in the garden. One boy insists he does have snails like these in his garden. Animal man tactfully suggests that perhaps these ones are a little bigger. Children try holding snails. They mostly squeal and grab their hands back before the snails slime them, including T. I don’t blame them. Animal man brings out creature #2.
Animal #2 is a millipede, curled up fast asleep. “Snail!” shout the children. Animal man says it is not a snail. Worm? No, it has lots of legs. Spider? No. “Millipede!” shouts the toddler version of David Attenborough. I’m telling you this kid is lined up for a long career with the Beeb. Animal man encourages children to wake millipede by calling him. Children readily oblige. They have clearly had A LOT of practise at waking people up. Millipede rises up, snake-charmer fashion. Sorry, Millipede – I know how you feel. Children attempt holding him. T is too afraid. I get some sense of needing to show her that in fact this foot-long insect with too many legs is not scary at all and volunteer to hold it. It feels somewhat like a hairbrush. Animal man looks like he might walk away. Wait, animal man! I may appear extraordinarily brave and heroic, but it is an act! Argh, it’s crawling up my arm, take it back, TAKE IT BACK!! Congratulate myself on being so brave.
Creature #3 arrives. It is a frog. “Frog!” shout the children. Children scramble to their feet to get a better look. Staff use sing song voices to encourage everyone to sit down nicely. Half the children oblige. One child runs closer. “Sit down!” call the staff. Another child gets up again. “Lets sit down everyone!” One child runs off to play with the pirate ship. T decides maybe she would like to play with the pirate ship too. No, T. Obviously you are more interested in this massive frog than a pirate ship. Mummy doesn’t want your nursery grown-ups thinking I am a terrible mother who can’t get you to sit nicely. Look, T! Look at the frog! T sits down. Animal man asks children where frogs live. “The pond!” shouts Attenborough. He’s got this. Animal man tells children this is a tree frog. Ooh, not fair, Animal Man. Trick question. Children look at Animal Man with sudden suspicion. Frogs do not live in trees! Animal Man says this frog can climb trees. I can feel a sense of mutiny rising. The children know frogs do not live in trees and they definitely cannot climb. Frogs are for ponds and their chosen sport is swimming. Animal Man demonstrates by putting the Amazing Climbing Frog on his banner. Ooooh, say the children. The mutiny dissipates. Animal Man was not lying after all.
Time for creature #4. It is a gecko. Attenborough informs us it lives in the desert. I start to worry that maybe T does not know as many animal facts as she should aged 2. Make mental note to review animal habitats soon. T does not want to touch the gecko. Ok, I think, if I can hold a millipede, I can hold a gecko. Four legs is easy. Hold Gecko. This is actually not too bad. Animal Man tells children we must be very gentle with the gecko’s tail as that is where he keeps his stomach. Have visions of gecko tail falling off and hands covered in gecko guts. Quickly pass him back. Congratulate self on being superhero mummy who holds strange creatures from faraway lands. Could totally be a presenter on My Pet and Me.
It’s the final creature. Am bracing self. I looked on the website last night and there was a tarantula. Of course he’s going to have saved it for the end. “This one is a bit different,” says Animal Man. Deep breaths. “He’s a bit bigger than the others.” Heart is racing. Where is the nearest exit? “This one is quite hairy.” How annoyed will husband be if I run screaming from spider in front of T? Maybe we should leave early. Or I could escape under pretence of needing the loo. “It has four legs…” Huh? Maybe not a tarantula after all! “…and whiskers.” Heart rate begins to return to normal speeds. Animal Man brings out…what is that? Gerbil? Giant mouse? Hmm, think it’s a chinchilla…yes! Animal Man says I am right. Take that Tiny Attenborough. Chinchilla is actually adorable. He has a sand bath in a old Roses tin. This animal is my favourite. No I don’t want to touch him – it’s a giant mouse!
I’ve got a text. Am I allowed to check my phone? Yes, this isn’t school, and you are a grown up. Look at it discreetly incase I get told off. It’s from husband. I’m outside. We’re meeting for a picnic. I held a millipede! Animal Man is telling children about chinchillas. Are you nearly finished? Stop being impatient. T is learning essential facts about chinchillas. Cheese is getting warm! Am getting hungry. Animal Man puts chinchilla back in cage. Thank everyone profusely. SUCH a brilliant morning and so well pitched for the age. Make mental note to try and do something like this again.
Go outside and meet husband. I held a millipede and a gecko, I tell him. J asks T what animals she saw this morning. “A centipede,” she tells him, “and a mouse.”