Friday, 1 March 2013

Little aquarist

Anemones
Little brother has chicken pox, so this afternoon we left him home with Matt (who fortunately works short lunches and has a POETS day on Friday instead) and had a rare trip out with just the two of us.  After picking up some homeopathic medicine for Toby (thanks for the suggestion Nat, I hadn't thought to try it) we walked down to the West Cliff Railway.  Ollie thought this was brilliant, and it was a new experience for him too.  Ollie wanted to know where the petrol went, which led to an interesting discussion of how the cliff railway worked - the carriage descending the hill pulls the cable which tows the ascending carriage up.  I reinforced this idea a little more at bedtime when he wanted to know about the counterweight on the crane in his book.  We did a physical demonstration where I was the counterweight and he was the load and I sat down and pulled him up, which created a lot of giggling and calls for repeat performances.
Spot the angel shark? 
 From our return trip on the cliff railway, we walked down to the aquarium.  This is a place that used to cause me a lot of frustration as it is quite expensive to get in, but Ollie often just wanted to charge from one thing to the next, missing out whole tanks, and ending up with us spending about 20 minutes there in total (not including the time he spend trying to wheedle toys out of me in the gift shop.  While this kind of short time was still a good time to him, it left me frazzled.

Mermaids purses
 Fortunately a year pass was relatively cheap and has proved to be a real stress reducer as I don't feel I've wasted money when he is on a fly through. Other days he will spend ages in there, gazing at the fish and talking to the splashy, inquisitive rays.  Today was such a day, probably helped by us being almost on our own with only one other mother and son there at the same time as us.

Among the creatures of fascination where the anemones ("look mummy, anemones, like in Nemo"), the dogfish, sharks and rays that kept popping their noses out of the water right in front of him, and the shark egg cases (mermaids purses).  Ollie was really amazed that the 'pebble' in the egg was a baby shark (or ray, I admit I can't tell the difference between their eggs without a field guide).

He also watched the Gurnard for ages, and had lots of questions about why it had 'legs' and why other fish don't have legs.  The gurnard has specialised fin rays which it uses to feel in the sand for prey species, such as smaller fish, but it does really seem to walk on the sand.  Ollie didn't quite get the idea that it is easier to swim in water with fins and a tail than to walk through water, so as soon as his chickenpox scabs really heal up we'll be off to the swimming pool to stride around in the water and then swim in it to see which is easier.
Gurnard, with specialised fin rays

I've had folks ask me when he was a baby why I bothered to take him to places like this, as 'he won't remember it anyway', but anyone looking at his little face gazing intently at the shifting colours and lights in the tanks would know instinctively the answer to this question.  Any further justification needed?  Well, the more new sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feels your little one is exposed to, the more neural pathways they form, and the more their interest in the world around them awakens.  So the kids have always been to zoos, and aquariums and museums and galleries.  They might not understand the same things from the experience that an older child would, but be sure they are taking away heaps of good stuff just the same.