Teach your child to be Snake Safe

snake bite kidsAs a wildlife education officer, I find it terribly disheartening when I get a snake out of its bag and see children (or adults)  so scared that they scream, cry or even run out of the room.

A fear of snakes is understandable, albeit unnecessary in my opinion, but an extreme fear does nothing to help anyone. It’s obviously unpleasant for the person experiencing the emotion, it sets a bad example for children, and it’s damaging for wildlife because it’s usually a sign of a lack of understanding about the animal.

The last post encouraged an appreciation of snakes. This post will give you some tips on how to teach your child to stay snake safe without having to fear them.

It’s possible to appreciate each animal for their role within the environment and educate your child about the risks associated with that animal at the same time. You can have fun doing it too!

What can you do to teach your child about the dangers of snakes?

It’s important to be prepared if you and your family live near the bush, are avid bushwalkers or love camping.   Whist doing this activity, try not to dramatise the situation, keep to the facts and stay positive toward snakes.

Talk about why some snakes can be dangerous.

Some snakes have venom, others constrict their prey. The snakes with venom can be dangerous but they only use it to kill their prey and to defend themselves.  It’s best to treat all snakes as venomous because it’s very hard to tell them apart.

red bellied black snake

Prevention is the best form of safety  

If you are going into an environment where snakes may live it’s important to:

  • Wear closed-in shoes to protect your feet and ankles.
  • Stomp your feet more vigorously when you walk. Snakes can pick up vibrations through the ground and are inclined to slither away from you if they can feel you coming.
  • Keep an eye out for snakes. Remaining alert might mean that you see the snake before it sees you.
  • Leave it alone. People that get bitten by snakes are generally the ones doing the wrong thing. They may be trying to pick it up, throw stones at it or kill it. Snakes only bite if they feel threatened. If you leave them alone, you should have no problem at all.
  • Take a first aid kit with you and know how to administer first aid for a snake bite.snake bite prevention

As with all Australian native animals, snakes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and cannot lawfully be killed. (Education Qld)

Talk about what your child should do if they see a snake

It’s important not to panic if you see a wild snake. I know that can be hard, but the safest way to prevent a snake bite is to stand still and wait for the snake to move away from you. Once the snake is a good ten meters away, you can move back slowly.

 Role play being snake safe

Once you’ve talked to your child about what to do if they see a snake and made this craft snake, you can start role-playing.  Hide the craft snake around your backyard. Ask your child to act as if the snake is real.

This activity was so much fun and a real hit with Miss Possum. She loved looking for the snake and then freezing as soon as she saw it.

Miss Possum saw a snake.

child saw snake

Miss Possum froze. Miss Platypus did too!

why freeze when see snake

Miss Possum walked backwards once the snake was gone (I removed the snake).

move away from snake

It might be a nice idea to learn how to treat a snake bite if it happens too.  Why not reverse the roles and see if your child remembers what to do if you get bitten.

Miss Possum pretended she was bitten by a snake and I administered first aid. She kept her bandage on for over an hour and we even role played visiting the doctor.  We  used this information from Education Queensland to teach us what do in the event of a snake bite.

first aid for a snake biteWe really did have a lot of fun with this activity. It’s a serious subject and it’s important to keep the activity slightly serious but learning through play can teach them exactly what they need to know to stay safe. I hope, if we ever encounter a wild snake, that Miss Possum will remember our fun game and know exactly what to do.

Miss Possum has always loved snakes but now she knows how to be snake safe too!

be snake safe

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post, Penny. I like the idea of doing role plays and practicing on what to do when/if you get bitten. All very practical tips!
    And love the photos of Miss Possum and Squeak! Your gorgeous girls are growing up fast!

    • pawhitehouse says

      Thanks so much Gracie. I know, it was a random moment when Squeak pulled up beside her and copied her sister. So glad I got that photo. Purr, wasnt interested but the twinkles are slightly too young for this activity.

  2. says

    This is so timely for us. After playgroup yesterday we walked out to see signs up saying a snake had been spotted in the garden. So I told Dino Boy and asked him not to walk on the rocks along the garden but to walk on the path instead. He was really quite worried and has been talking about snakes since. My grandma (who lives on a property where there are often snakes) always told us to walk loudly, sort of stomp, so the snakes would feel the vibrations. I’ll read this again with Dino Boy tomorrow. Thanks again Penny!

    • pawhitehouse says

      It did come at a good time! It can be really hard to teach this activity without creating fear about snakes but try to remind them about all the good points about snakes and that should help keep perspective.

  3. says

    Thanks Penny…a really helpful post for a scaredy Mum like me. I make sure we always stomp when going up the path to play and i do a quick scan of our environment…i also know how to do first aid for a snake bite so i shall try to incorporate a few more of your ideas and ensure i don’t pass this fear onto the girls. Part of my worry comes from when Miss teen’s father (who worked as a ranger) often used to bring snakes to his house for her to touch etc….which was fine but she grew up thinking all snakes were safe and very nearly was bitten by a brown when we were bushwalking one day…i then found it hard to explain that there are snakes that aren’t so friendly and ok to touch!

    • pawhitehouse says

      I competely understand Jode. It’s hard to get the balance right between loving snakes and being cautious and safe wehn seeing one. Although we did this activity, I would still worry about how Miss Possum would respond to seeing a real one in the wild. All we can do is eduate as best as we can and hope that the most important facts sink in.

  4. says

    I must admit my heart rate has picked up just reading your post. I am very anxious about snakes but agree that we shouldn’t pass this fear onto our children. We live in Tassie so all of our snakes are deadly I believe. We live quite close to the bush and often go for little walks. I haven’t encountered a snake but now see how important it is to educate the children on how to react. We will do some role play in the next little while. Thanks for sharing.

    • pawhitehouse says

      My Aunty lives in Tassie Kate and on our first visit we saw a tiger snake slithering away from us very fast. I think we scared him off. I was still concerned though and kept my eyes open looking for them for the remainder of the visit. I think it’s important to be cautious, especially if you live near the bush. I hope this activity helps. We have a lot of serious fun with it!

  5. Lisa says

    Australia has snakes. Snakes play an important part in the ecosystem. We have to learn to live with them. Thanks for the article. Great tips.

  6. says

    Thanks for the great information on this post. I have just popped over from the giveaway on Divine Finds and am so glad as it has lead me to your site. We love bushwalking together as a family, but the girls tend to run ahead and I did worry about unexpected encounters with snakes, and now I know how to teach my girls to be snake-safe.

    • Penny says

      I’m so glad you got something out of this Catherine. Miss Possum loves this activity (I saw loves because she still wants to do the activity again and again). Who would have thought somethings so saftey concious could be so much fun!

  7. Donna Lawson says

    I am thankful that you are posting this advice but i disagree about “keeping it positive” with young children. Some children are easier than others to teach to be still. The amount of stillness needed in close proximity to a brown snake is probably beyond many children under the age of 5-6. And freezing is all good and welll if you see the snake! A 9yo girl not far from here died after being bitten by a brownsnake without even seeing it, she went out to the veggie garden to pick corn. Our area has been overrun with brown snakes the last few summers due to good seasons. I think its high time brown snakes were not a protected species when they are found close to homes. my father nearly died, it was silly of him he put his hand under a shelf where he couldnt see in the shed, but his experience showed me that hospitals often do all the wrong things when it comes to snake bites and even with antivenom there are no guarantees. I don’t see why there is such love out there for this agressive killer, they do not stay in the bush, they are in our sheds, under our homes, in our yards and they are aggressive! I was washing my car in the front yard once, lots of noise, it was less than 20m away and about 10m from my 2yo. Thankfully my dog spotted it and i was able to get them both in the house, but what if my 2yo saw it first? you can’t teach a 2yo boy to ‘freeze’. I just can’t understand why brown snakes are protected when they seem to be around in such large numbers. Are they more important than our children? I think not…

  8. Deb @ Aspiring Mum says

    It’s good to have your perspective Penny. Personally, I hate snakes. I have a huge phobia of them, but there have been a couple of instances where I have had to pull on my big girl panties and be brave for my children’s sake. I think we can so easily pass on our fears to our children through our reactions. I’ve had situations of snakes in and on the house, and also out bike riding with my girls. So, even though I can’t stand them (sorry!) I still think it’s so important to educate our kids on the dangers of them and keep a level head ourselves if we ever encounter one.

    • Penny says

      Deb, that’s a really thoughtful way to look at it and I wish there were more parents like you out there. I think it’s only natural to fear snakes (they are a predator and some can be very dangerous) but I truly believe that scaring children to the point that cry if they see any snake isn’t the right way to do it.

  9. Dani Flowers says

    I was reading your posts for some ideas on animal crafts. I came across this one and was wondering if the first aid and how you secured Miss Possum’s arm was strictly for young kids who get bitten by a venomous snake or if it was for everyone. I am from the United States and had never heard of securing it. I have seen/heard to wrap it to slow the spread of venom but I have never seen anything about using a splint. Just wondering. Thanks and I look forward to seeing more of your information!

    • Penny says

      Hi Dani,

      The Education Queensland link on the post mentions that we use a splint for all people. It doesn’t mention why they use the splint but I always thought it was to keep the limb completely still to slow the flow of venom. I hope that answers your question.

  10. Lee says

    Thankyou so much, my son is kindergarten and had a project on snake safety. This made it very easy for him to research on your website and have facts that he was able to make a great safety sign!!

  11. Lauren says

    Thank you for this!! I’m an avid snake enthusiast. My daughter is not a fan, which is good because she’s only three. She yelled at me a few weeks ago for moving a local to us venomous snake out of our yard and into the woods. Note, I’m trained in handling venomous snakes so I know what I’m doing, but its good that my kiddo knew to yell at me.

    • Penny Whitehouse says

      That’s so funny Lauren! I’m glad you’re training in handling venomous snakes other wise I might of been cross with you. :)

  12. Terri-lee says

    My 4yr old LOVES snakes with a severe passion! Another tip is to go to your community “snake talk” usually held in early spring. Call your council to find out where a presentation will be held, or visit a semi-rural suburb as they definately have them once a year. Someone presents snake-bite first aid, then a snake handler will talk about snake safety and even let you hold a snake if you like :-)

    • Penny Whitehouse says

      That’s a wonderful suggestions Terri-lee. It’s a lovely idea to take your child to a snake talk because they are gaining memorable experiences through learning in the community.

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