As a wildlife education officer, I find it terribly disheartening when I get asnake 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.
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.
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.
Miss Possum froze. Miss Platypus did too!
Miss Possum walked backwards once the snake was gone (I removed the 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.We 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!