Maybe it's around the third birthday that you can talk about it. The parents of a serious sleeper might be ready much sooner, though there are plenty of parents who won't find any charms in the topic until even later.
The activities of nighttime animals, we mean. Who can possibly define "nocturnal" before then without triggering the all-night, newborn flashbacks?! Is there any sparkle in your eye when you speak of possums and owls, raccoons and coyotes when your bones still remember the ache of those sleepless nights? Can you possibly find a bat's antics cute when you aren't confident of quiet in your house tonight at 3:00 a.m?
When you're ready, we're ready.
The world of nighttime animals is a magical one. There is something slightly mischievous about the whole business, which makes it endlessly delightful to the preschool set. It's silly -- nature's version of Wacky Wednesday but every night! Nocturnal animals cozy up all day in spots hidden from the sun, and then they peek out in the safety of dusk to eat and play and explore. How fun for skunks and wolves! How truly upsetting for human mothers!
Tales of these nighttime animals fill many wondrous books. Read them at bedtime if you dare!
Where Are the Night Animals? -- The Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is the perfect place to start your exploration of this dimly lit world. This particular books is especially vivid in its explanation of hearing mechanics and how senses are compromised or enhanced in the dark. It has as much science as your little one could want, but there's also a lot of context and story amid all the facts and explanations.
Epossumondas -- From science to sillies, nighttime animals have it all! Even the word possum brings a smile, and when you get into the whole regional "possum" vs. "opossum" distinctions, you're sure to be snickering. Coleen Sally makes brilliant use of the possum giggles in this magnficent adaptation of the Southern folktale of Epaminondas. (Don't have the first clue who Epaminondas was and aren't sure you've ever seen a possum close up? Just get the book!) Epossumondas spends his days awake in this volume and the sequels (one more coming Fall 2009!) up during the day, but maybe that explains why he's got everything so upside-down. If you'd like another possum tour guide for your nighttime animal adventures, do read Possum's Harvest Moon as well!
Stellaluna -- This famous story is a bat-themed lesson in "to thine own self be true" -- and, oh by the by, Shakespeare himself followed that line with a reference to night following day. Great minds share a fascination with nighttime, it seems! Many a parent had no fondness for bats (flashbacks to summer camp horrors, perhaps) until this sweet tale came onto their bookshelves.
The Kissing Hand -- Night school for raccoons is the setting for this charming (and tear-jerking) story of parental love. If you can get past the emotions of separation, you'll smile at the nocturnal references throughout. If not, you'll catch them on the next read...
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark -- What fun to have this sweet, cautious, night owl as your guide to the wonders of the night. He's sure to make fast friends with your own former night owl!
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