Looking for a few ideas. We moved out to a fairly rural area about 9 months ago, onto some acreage. Our property backs onto a ravine that extends fully into the wilderness...thus we get all sorts of fun visitors.
I'm obviously concerned about the visits we've had thus far from black bears (Mama bears and cubs, big male bears, etc); Cougars we can't see - but we know they're in the area; Coyotes; Stray dogs.
My son is a very precocious toddler - he'll be 3 in September. As I'm pregnant, I'm having a harder time keeping up with him, and he just goes and goes. I'll bend down to pick up something, and he's suddenly across the yard and behind a tree or a bush. I have this fear (my husband says I'm irrational, but whatever) that one day there will be a bear/cougar/coyote - and my son will run, or squeal, or try to approach the animal. From what I understand, a toddler's jerky movements and high pitched voices immediately scream 'easy prey' to animals...
So - we've been trying to talk with him about animals. Before we go outside we go through this litany of "what do you do if you see a bear? Do you run away? nooo... Do you call for mommy and daddy... Yes!" But, there's no way to know that any of this is sinking in. (we do have a very alert dog who does a good job patrolling the property - so we're pretty covered for safety).
What I'm looking for are ideas to further my son's education about the animals around us WITHOUT making him paranoid or have nightmares, or trigger a run-away/run-to-mommy episode. Debating getting some puppets and doing puppet shows... I can't seem to find any books that do anything other than make bears out to be cute friendly guys to share your berries with. :(
So, suggestions? Ideas?
I think the dog is your biggest help there. And probably he's too young to really act correctly in a bear encounter (where many well-informed adults run, despite knowing better). Teach him to stick with the dog, and to stick within boundaries you're comfortable with on your land, maybe.
How about making a fenced yard? I find I just cannot relax unless my toddler is contained. For more awareness about wild animals try finding books at visitor centers.
Ultimately kids raised in the wilderness will gain great skills, just from because of your day to day life. But I don't think children understand fully not to wander into the wilderness (or run into traffic) until age 5 at least.