Tag Archives: animals

Lily the Leopard Frog, RIP

Lily, July 2013 – October 8, 2014

leopard frog

Lily, beloved leopard frog of Sequoia Parents Nursery School, died quietly in the night last Wednesday. Lily was born at a classroom supply house and delivered to what would be her life-long home by the U.S. Mail. She led a full life, from tadpole to adult frog, delighting and educating students and their parents. Lily was a generous frog, always willing to share what she knew about metamorphosis, and inviting kids to observe her life in (and out of) the water. Lily loved crickets!

Even when lily grew legs and the ability to jump great distances, she chose to stay in her aquarium, showing her devotion to her preschool family. Lily is survived by a tadpole named Wonder Fred, a tarantula named Bob, a stick-bug named Groot, and 50 preschoolers who have learned a bit more about life.

Death is a hard topic for any of us, but especially for young children–it is a great challenge for them to grasp the meaning of the end of a relationship. Often, adults do not help, attempting to neutralize painful news by using inappropriate language: “Lily’s gone away“; “We’ve lost her”; or “Lily has gone to sleep“. All we are doing in such a situation is delaying the pain of realization (and possibly making a child afraid to sleep or wander too far from parents … “what if they lose me too?!”). There is no way to sugar coat the finality of death, and if we don’t do our best to address it clearly in the moment, we will only leave children confused as they struggle to understand what’s happened.

The death of a pet can be hard, but of course it’s nothing compared to the loss of a family member or friend. Our task is not to instill fear about the future, but to talk about death in plain and literal ways, making every effort to answer a child’s current questions simply. We don’t need to say more than we know, or to answer questions that kids aren’t asking, but we should choose language that helps them understand the truth of the situation. “Lily’s body has stopped working and we don’t get to play with her any more.”

One reason we speak about death in euphemisms is that we’re afraid to make our children sad: “Maybe if we use nicer language it won’t hurt so much.” Don’t be fooled. It will hurt a lot more when kids get the message that grief and other big emotions are somehow not allowed. That never makes grief go away, but adds a burden to never show it. Allow these feelings, and name them so that children know the feelings are normal: “We’re so sad that she died.” To do otherwise makes more confusion, because death is sad and hard and we can’t rush children (or adults for that matter) to feel differently about it.

These are the reasons we invite animals into our classrooms. Because even though it is sad when they die, we are in the business of teaching children about life, and not only the happy parts.


This post originally appeared on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog

Children and Pets, and The Adults Who Love Them

Anghelika came home from the first day of preschool today, excited to have handed off zoo-keeper duties to a new dad. His job will include feeding crickets to two young frogs and a tarantula named Bob. The new zookeeper happens to be a veterinarian, and his first question was, “Do you feed your crickets calcium?” Anghelika’s blank response only served to excite The Zookeeper more, who simply said, “I’m going to love this.”


Anghelika was excited too. The joy of working in a co-op is sharing such duties with qualified and excited parents. Lots of expertise is needed to support an active classroom, especially when there are animals around. Caring for living things is not child’s play.

When Dave turned six, as the story goes, he asked his parents for either a) a boa constrictor, or b) an iguana. His mom did a little research into care and feeding, and chose the vegetarian option: “Howard” the green iguana was that year’s birthday present of note. Mom thought that it would live a few months and that would be the end of it, but, when Dave left for college, Howard was still there in his cage, in the dining room, adding his particular je ne sais quoi to evening mealtimes. By the time Howard joined us at our home in Southern California, he was a 20-year-old, 5-foot-long, 5 pound reminder to choose your children’s pets carefully.

What tipped the scales in Howard’s favor so many years ago was that somebody told Dave’s mom that she just needed to tear up some lettuce for him and he’d be fine. In Dave’s home, that meant Howard ‘survived’ for 20 years on iceberg lettuce, probably the least nutritious food on the planet. When Howard finally left home to live with us, we picked up a  book on herpetology, just because. This book, no surprise, described a slightly more complex diet than watery lettuce as being ideal. As we got our heads around feeding Howard a complete diet, we marveled that he’d survived so long with so little nutrition, and theorized that he might have been in a coma for most of his life.

While his new diet lead to increased energy, and a good last chapter to his life, he also suffered from a few significant gastrointestinal difficulties. We stewed squash, mashed tofu, ground up various other foodstuffs, and served it all to the surprised creature. Of course his health went downhill pretty quickly, but we attributed that to his newly awakened metabolism. (For  any aspiring herpetologists out there, iguana enemas are not cheap.)

We could have used a good veterinarian back then. Dave’s mom was not by any stretch negligent, just lacking information … information along the lines of how to load your crickets with calcium, or how to feed your green iguana a square meal. Maybe it takes a village to raise the animals in your children’s lives too. The simple truth is, we are thankful for the enthusiasm of co-op parents, who bring their unique expertise to enrich our children’s learning environment. We think Bob the tarantula is probably pretty grateful too.


This post originally appeared on the Parenting On The Peninsula Blog