We have the top ten most venomous snakes in Australia, and although they all play an important role in the environment, it does mean that there are risks too. So, as a result, I’ve written two posts on this topic. This post will cover activities that will encourage snake appreciation and the next will cover what you can do to teach your child how to stay snake safe in a fun and snake-friendly way.
Why should we appreciate snakes?
- Snakes have ecological value. They are silent predators of the world and keep the animal population in balance. Imagine how many rats and mice we would have living in our houses if we didn’t have snakes to keep them under control?
- They are beautiful. Okay, I know some of you may not agree with me, but take a look at google and type in snake and you’ll see an array of vibrant colours and patterns. Why do you think so many handbags replicate snake skin?!
- Snakes have helped and are still helping to create medicines that help people:
-The Brazilian pit viper is one of the deadliest snakes of the jungle, but a blood pressure drug made from a protein in its venom has extended the lives of millions of people.
- More recently, researchers have begun exploring the potential cancer-fighting properties of certain snakes venoms (Animals in Research, cited 2012)
What can you do to help children appreciate snakes?
1. Get snake crafty
This craft will prepare you for next week when you will learn how to teach your child to stay snake safe. For now though, making a snake can be lots of fun and can help to point out parts of a snake that a child may not know yet.
- Penne pasta
- acrylic paint
- paint brush
- 2 x toilet rolls
- 2 or 3 x pipe cleaners (we reused some from another craft activity)
- sticky tape
How to make it
Join the pipe cleaners together by twisting the ends.
Paint the pasta and leave it to dry.
Squash the toilet roll and cut out a head. You should get two cardboard heads the same size. Paint the two cardboard head cut-outs.
Once they are dry, use the remaining cardboard from the toilet roll to make a loop that will sit on underside of the head. Attach the cardboard loop and the pipe cleaner to the underside of the head (see image). Place the other cardboard head on top and stick it together with tape.
Once the pasta is dry, thread it onto the pipe cleaner.
Use the other toilet roll to make the tail. Cut it out like this.
Do the same join that you did on the head and attach the pipe cleaner before you roll the tail to make a cone.
Voila! Now you have some very crafty snakes!
2. Learn about snakes through play
We used our crafty critters to act like snakes and do what snakes like to do best—laze in the sun, hide under debris and eat mice! You could use stuffed toys, rubber snakes or even dress up like a snake yourself. ‘
3. Read some great books about snakes
These books are snake friendly books:
Verdi by Janell Canon – There’s a great review on My little Bookcase regarding this book. Plus, there are some awesome activities to go with it. I know what will be under the tree for Miss Possum this Christmas!
Wonder Why Snakes Shed Their Skin by Amanda O’neill
Snakes by Rachel Griffiths
S-S-snakes by Lucille Recht Pennerby
Hide and Snake by Keith Baker
4. Always talk about snakes in a positive light
Many parents don’t realise they are creating a fear in their child just by modelling negative attitudes toward snakes.
5. Discuss a snake’s role in the environment.
Why do you think snakes are important? Create a food web or food chain and see what role snakes play with other animals in the environment.
6. Ask questions and research snakes.
What would happen if snakes were taken out of the environment? Why do they need the sun to warm up? Why do you think they have scales all over their body? What do you think it would be like to eat something when you have no hands? Do you think it would be funny if we shed our skin all at once?
7. Visit these snake websites
- Snake Facts – Learn more about snakes here.
- Reptile Games aplenty – With lots of snake fun!
- Online Snake Game – (children 8 +) the snake needs to eat a certain number of mice to move to the next level. A word of warning, it’s quite realistic.
8. Get Closer
Not to wild snakes of course, but to safe captive snakes. It’s a great sensory thrill to touch a snake. They look wet because of the sheen on their scales but they are dry and they are cold to touch because they are cold-blooded.
If your child gets the opportunity to touch a captive and well-handled snake, do it. Don’t push your child if they don’t want to though, it’s natural to be hesitant about touching a snake. Pushing can sometimes worsen a fear.
Remind your child that the snake is safe to touch. Touching the snake yourself can encourage them to give it a go too. Be brave, like Kelly from Be a Fun Mum, she kindly let me use her photos of wild snakes for this post (can you believe I don’t have any!). I had to add the photos of Kelly and her family holding captive snakes too. !
I’ve been working with captive snakes for 10 years and have never been bitten (yet), so they are very safe and the snakes used are always pythons and have no venom.
Miss Possum held her first snake at just four years old.
Does your child love snakes? What do you do to appreciate animals that have a bad reputation?