It’s actually a bit true, our house has turned into a bat festival this year. It seems the tiny person can’t get enough of those creatures of the night. She has a million questions – do they bite? Will the drink your blood? Are there nice bats? Why do bats sleep upside down? Doesn’t it make them dizzy?
I am genuinely shocked by the barrage of ideas headed my direction – none of which I am quite sure of how to answer in a way that a 3-year-old can process without nightmares, thinking mom is rather dull (which I have been told, daddy is way more fun), or losing interest entirely.
I’m starting to suspect this mini-bat obsession will be an annual thing, as we had the same spooky learning enthusiasm last year. So, that’s where we started our Natural Journal project this season.
Last Fall, I discovered that the Canadian Wildlife Federation provides entire lessons, including amazing posters, guides and other learning gear – for free. Their Wild About Bats lesson was right up our alley. So, I ordered it and wow have we ever put it to good use.
The tiny person and I made our bat mobile again this year, naming the bats that could most often be found in old mine shafts, along riverbanks and in wooded areas around Vancouver Island. Just knowing we have bats on the island was enough for her. Venturing out in search of them, far too spooky, she tells me. Spooky, at a distance, is perfect.
So, along our regular routes like the Puntledge River and in places like Seal Bay Nature Park, we wandered around talking a lot about bats wiith her very publicly letting me know that FINDING bats was not on her list.
Too much Halloween, I suspected.
Bats are cool, really. While they will bite, they’re relatively harmless and incredible allies of farmers and haters of nighttime bugs.
They are also seriously endangered by encroaching development, deforestation and the destruction of waterways.
And, while all that science stuff is great learning, explaining deforestation to a 3-year-old is, well, not a good use of my limited brainpower. I really wanted to find a way to plug into the bat universe for her that was less frightening and made sense to both of us.
So, we turned to stories.
Happy, smart, sweet bats were the direction I was headed. So, when I found the genuinely warm classic Stellaluna by Janell Cannon at Winners, it seemed the perfect fit.
This great tale about a baby bat who is separated from its mommy and discovers herself made our daughter’s heart do flip-flops of the best kind. For her, it let her realize that bats had families too (very important to her right now).
We’ve read it just about every night for the last couple of weeks, and each morning she wakes up and asks about Stellaluna before launching into her new list of bat-related questions. Now that she’d shaken the anxiety that bats would eat her if she found them in the wild, we could really start talking.
For school-aged kids, Stellaluna is a great jumping off point for expanded study of the bat universe. One of the cool ideas that OBE mom Rosina recently turned me on to is lapbooking, something she’ll show us all how to create on OBE in her first column on Nov. 2. Lapbooking – whether you are a homeschooler or looking for ways to work on extra learning projects at home after school – is a great way to focus on one overall concept while getting everything from math and science to reading and writing in. Check out ways to use a lapbook for Stellaluna Here
After Stellaluna, we also picked up Bat Loves The Night by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies for a bit more scientific, yet still preschool, look at our bat friends.
We read a few other great Halloween stories too that had the bats as the heroines. Good times.
Now, on our walks, it’s ME that wonders if finding bats would be such a good idea – as the tiny person is on a mission to see one up close. My anxiety is a safety one, really because I don’t want to lean over the riverbank and fall in or get too close to an empty mine shaft. Sure, mom, build up her confidence and chicken out when the kiddo is ready to check things out for herself.
Chicken mommy as I may be, bats will definitely be outliving their ghost and goblin Halloween companions this year, and we’ve added another cool creature to look for on our nature walks that make sure we get it that the forest is a whole lot more than a pile of trees and leaves.