On the next David Attenborough.

Currently, the Comet is using her left hand a lot in her efforts to feed herself. You are entertaining yourself by putting bits of potato in different places, or pointing the loaded teaspoon this way or that to see if she will still go the southpaw route (so far, mostly), but despite the fact that your Mum says that your Brother’s left-handedness was glaring from quite early on, you are not sure if it means anything. It’s very easy to look at a mild preference for … and declare that this clearly shows her future as a …. and at ten months you feel this is a little optimistic. Most likely she’s just gotten used to your right-handed habit of making a lunge for her mouth from her left, in the days when she was still letting you feed her.

The Star, on the other hand, is rising four and a child who most definitely knows his own mind. This is wearying when it leads to regular arguments about whether it is time to stop chasing the pigeons or (in his opinion) not. There are times when you would like to have one of those children who just capitulates to adult demands without demonstrating a fundamental contempt for the concept of the Mama is always right. On the upside, your debating skills are getting a really good workout.

Anyway, it occurred to you the other day that the Star has been fascinated with animals and related concepts for long enough now that it  is shaping up nicely to be a genuinely enduring obsession, rather than just a passing phase. I mean, sure, he went though cars and trains and, well, that was about it because then he got onto bugs and sharks and frankly he’s never looked back. It’s been the natural world from then on in, albeit a new subsection of it every few months. It’s hard to keep up, because he simply adds a new species to the pantheon rather than dropping previous enthusiasms completely, but you think birds are edging it from dinosaurs* these days.

You hadn’t realised how marked his preference was until you bought a set of picture encyclopaedias from a car boot sale on the grounds that while the Star enjoys a good story and another one and one more and oh go on Mama read me this too, he has also shown a certain appetite for factual books. When you got home, you upended them in the living room and the Star dived into them excitedly. Yet very soon it was very apparent that all encyclopaedias are not created equal. Because the Star divided the books into the ones about mammals, birds, insects, dinosaurs and sea life, which he wanted to read, and the ones about science, history, geography, farming and, shock horror, transport, which he didn’t, and though the books sit on a Star accessible shelf and the favoured ones are pulled down frequently, the others remained shunned to this day. You are still slightly surprised by how adamantly he sticks to his guns on this. Although he did let you buy a book on castles the other day and has pulled that out of the reading pile quite regularly since, so perhaps it is time to insist on looking through the one on agriculture or something again. Probably not though, as what he seemed most interested in wasn’t the knights but spotting all the dogs in the pictures.

Thing is, if this is the beginning of a truly lifelong passion, you are wondering if perhaps you should start pursuing it with him more.

Tricky. Animals have always left you a bit cold to be honest. But you feel the books are a good starting point. Also, thank goodness for libraries. You have learned more in the last year about the natural world than in your previous thirty *cough* summers due to the non-fiction section of the local children’s library, and you are pretty sure the Star has internalised more.**

You are also becoming accustomed to spending days out at animal-themed attractions. Parks will do, of course. What with the squirrels, the pigeons, the bees, wasps, butterflies, snails, worms, other assorted bugs and caterpillars, the pigeons, the dogs, the parrots, the starlings, the many varieties of ducks, the geese and the swans, the moorhens, the coots, the herons, the pigeons, the rats, the mice and the pigeons there is quite a lot of wildlife action going on. Still, this is London and there is also a profusion of zoos, safari parks, open farms, bird sanctuaries, aquariums and, if all else fails, the Natural History Museum within easy striking distance, so many places in fact, that if you visit one a month by the time you get back to the top of the list, that place will still be fresh and exciting. For both of you.

And then there is the issue of pets. After the Star renewed his quest to hug every mutt in London, following a brief hiatus when he realised that dogs have teeth, you have also been encouraging him to ask Granny and Grandad when they are going to get a dog. Rather them than you, is what you say. At least with children, you eventually get to stop picking up their poo.

You, however, are more inclined to think the Star might be getting some fish for his birthday.

As well as this. Mind you, you draw the line at having to sit though episodes of Countryfile.  But you might be persuaded to take the Star to the Imax at the Science Museum next time you and B get a yen to go to the cinema.

But the educator in you is vaguely worried that you should be doing something a bit more purposeful than just letting the Star’s whimsy stuff his brain full of whatever animal facts he comes across that happen to take his fancy (“Penguins have spiky tongues, Mama!”). In fact, the educator in you is having difficulty in restraining herself from drawing up some kind of biologically focused pre-schooler scheme of work. This month we will look at life-cycles!

Question is, would this kill his interest absolutely dead and if not, what should you be doing?

Answers on a postcard please.

*You are not at all sure that the Star grasps that dinosaurs do not, as such, exist in the modern world. You suspect he thinks they just live far far away. Under these circumstances, dinosaurs definitely count.

**Unless you are talking about evolution. You are still looking for a Star-freindly explanation. Anyone? Anyone at all?


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