Getting kids to love not-so-cute critters

Teaching respect for insects, fish, and other non-mammals can have positive impacts on children’s development—and their love for the planet.

“We don’t squish daddy longlegs!”

I have no idea how many times I’ve said these words to my three-year-old only to see him bring down a plastic bat on yet another noble arachnid. He’s never been harmed by one of these spider-cousins, and in fact, daddy longlegs have no way to hurt a human. And yet something about all those wispy legs invokes a fight-or-flight response for him in a way that kittens do not.  

Of course, lots of kids smash invertebrates. And plenty of adults don’t think twice before killing certain kinds of animals.

“There's some research that we may have evolved to have a fear response to some animals, like snakes and spiders,” says Gail Melson, a developmental

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