I know this sounds revolting,

by Deb on February 2, 2010

but bear with me.

We have been observing a dead mouse.  (See why there are no pics for this one?)

When we got back from holidays we found one that was fairly fresh.  I was taking it out to the bin, but the girls had so many questions and were so fascinated that I left it on the ground near the bin rather than putting it in.  I’ve done it before myself with a dead lizard, so I knew it wouldn’t be too bad.  I admit I’d forgotten there would be flies here not just ants, but it’s gone really well and the girls have enjoyed it.  I made sure to put it somewhere the ants wouldn’t cause any problems and there hasn’t been a noticeable smell or anything.

It really hasn’t been a big deal for the girls, but most adults are quite squeamish about death.  In general I’ve found kids aren’t, it’s very common for them to ask what’s happened to pets that have been buried, or ask if they’ve turned into just bones yet.  And it’s an important part of life – we all eat dead plants and animals and we’re lucky that dead things are broken down by nature.  Imagine if they weren’t!

I won’t go into too many details but it wasn’t too bad.  It took less than a week and the fur covered anything too nasty!  Germs were first of course, then the flies.  We talk about germs quite often so big girl has some idea that there are bugs that are too small to see that live inside you but can make you sick.  At one point she said she could smell it, so I told her it was ‘germ farts’ because they were eating inside the mouse.  Now that’s a phrase I never thought I would use.  I explained that normally if germs tried to hurt her, her body could stop them.  But because the mouse was dead now it’s body wasn’t working and it couldn’t stop the germs so they were eating it.

I wasn’t looking forward to the maggots, they are definitely not my favourites, probably a legacy of watching Dr Who as a kid.  However we only saw them when ants were attacking them.  I think this was because it was fairly exposed – maggots like it dark and protected.  It gave us a chance to talk about fly babies, she already knows caterpillars are butterfly babies so she understood that.

All that was left by then was bones and fur, we weren’t doing any poking or touching.  The big girl knows a fair bit about bones, she knows they are the hard bits inside you and points them out and she’s seen dog bones and chicken bones.  So she was interested in seeing tiny little mouse bones.

At the end she did say it was sad.  But I pointed out that the mouse was already dead, and now the ants and flies had something to eat and had got rid of it for us.  I suspect she might have meant the ants attacking the maggots, but even I wasn’t ready to get into that so I did some tactical ignoring.

It’s not something I planned but they were fascinated and enjoyed it, asking regularly if they could check on the mouse.  It’s something to keep in mind if the opportunity comes your way.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tricia February 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

What wonderful observations and a great opportunity for learning. I wouldnt have thought of doing that – but willmaybe give it a go next time we catch a mouse.

I did a sort of similar thing this week. i bought home a kangaroo kull I found. My nearly three year old was rather confused at first. After 50 odd ‘why’ questions that I struggled to answer (like ‘why did you cut the kangaroo’s head off mum?’), I was starting to think maybe she wasn’t ready to play with bones. But then she knocked on her own skull and said ‘my bones can’t come out cause I’m not dead’.

Thanks for sharing.


Tricia February 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I meant to type ‘skull’…and not ‘kull’.

Sorry – i should type slower 🙂


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