The Toy-Stealing Squirrel

We were walking through the park the other day when DorkySon suddenly stopped and let out an ear-piercing shriek.

What is it?” I asked.

There’s a squirrel,” he said, pointing, and shrieked again.

I’m confused. We see squirrels most days on our walks through the park, and they don’t usually provoke any reaction.

What’s wrong with the squirrel?” I asked.

It’s going to steal my toys,” he said, before grabbing my hand and pulling me quickly past.

I explained that squirrels didn’t really like playing with toys – that they preferred to just play hide and seek in the trees and collect nuts and berries – but this didn’t seem to reassure him any.

How could a squirrel steal your toys anyway?” I asked. “They don’t have any hands!

They steal toys with their mouths,” said DorkySon, looking at me as though I was stupid.

This has started to become a bit of a ‘thing’ recently, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. He has never been massively interested in animals (“I only like cars and trucks!”) but they haven’t ever freaked him out like this either.

Along with last week’s squirrel incident, he had a meltdown in the middle of the high street because there was a pigeon walking around on the pavement nearby, and we’ve had to take several long detours around the park to avoid dogs that he has spotted. “I don’t like dogs,” he’ll say. “They scare me. They say woof too loudly and they’re always angry.

I’ve been racking my brains to try and think of anything that might have triggered this newfound fear of small furry things – and he does seem genuinely quite frightened and upset by them – but I’m struggling. The only thing I could link to the toy-stealing-squirrel was a Kipper book in which a couple of wee mice hide one of Kipper’s cuddly toys from him, but it’s not a scary book, and it all ends well.

When we’re safely back at home and we chat about birds and dogs, he seems happy enough. He giggles when he remembers a friend’s dog licking his toes when he was a baby, and he often says that he’d like to get a puppy to look after when he’s older.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of this – but nor do I want to have to reassure a screaming, crying toddler every time we go out for a walk and some poor, decrepit old labrador, minding its own business, makes the mistake of wandering within our line of vision.

Perhaps this is just another of these development stages, where DorkySon’s imagination is taking another leap forward and he’s starting to become more aware of possible dangers in the world. That’s probably a good thing. But how can I reassure him that the squirrels aren’t all out to steal his toys, and the pigeons are unlikely to be pecking his toes anytime soon?

I don’t often ask for advice on here, but the collective wisdom of the parent blogosphere would be most welcome!

14 responses

  1. This is a tough one. Milla went through a long long period of not liking dogs, but now apart from the big ones she will giggle when we see them. It took a long time of me explaining dogs to her i.e. “Look, it’s wagging it’s tail, that means it’s friendly.” Perhaps some nice squirrel books and other than that constant reinforcement that it’s ok – squirells just like nuts, perhaps we could help him find some nuts? etc, etc.. Then one day you’ll suddenly realise that you haven’t heard about squirrel’s for ages.

    Having said that I have an adult friend who is also well freaked out by them, but she grew up in Shetland where there are no trees.

  2. Ah it’s a stressful phase. The Bug was terrified of my Mum’s King Charles Spaniels for a while and she took it so personally. He loved them before that, and he is fine with them again now – nothing we did or said made a difference – it just took time…

  3. Sounds ike you are doing everything you can do ie remind him of all the nice animals in the safety of his home. As you are probably more than aware, this is just a phase – does not make it any less frustrating though.

  4. All I could suggest is taking him to visit petting zoos, farms, people with friendly pets at home, etc and encouraging him to get to know the animals in a safe environment.
    It’s good to have a level of wariness around animals – they’re not all so friendly and it freaks me out when my boys try to pet every Rottweiler they see in the street.
    But I’m sure he’ll come around. It’s probably just a phase – or a cartoon or bad dream which freaked him out.

    • That’s a good though – am missing the Gorgie Farm park a bit! We need to make friends with someone with a very small and quiet dog I think!

      You’re right about how good it is to have a wariness though – if your boys are the opposite that must be quite scary.

  5. Yes, its an odd thing. My 7yo loves all things animal, and my 4yo is petrified by them, especially dogs and I have no idea where it’s come from. We just keep trying to show her there is nothing to be afraid of. We can’t avoid dogs where we live as so many people have them, so I’m hoping it passes in time. I think at that age their imaginations are forming and it’s a tough time for them. Good luck.🙂

  6. It could be the unpredictable nature of animals that freaks him out…I remember being terrified of dogs when I was a kid – came from getting trapped in my neighbours garden with a red shepard (that was taller than me!) chasing me around and around and around!!! I only really got over my fear when we got our own family dog…I think it’s good to be a little wary of animals but not nice feeling so freaked out by them! Poor Tom! xxx

    • Oh crikey, that does sound scary! Poor you… I don’t think he has experienced anything like that. Sounds like it may just be a phase that a lot of children go through🙂

  7. They pick things up from all over the place and you don’t realise where they are getting them from. Noah developed a real issue about Spiders and granted although they are a common thing to be scared of, the fear must of come from somewhere and we are not worried about them. We then discovered her had seen an episode of Peppa Pig and she was scared of spiders and that was it! Funnily he has outgrown that stage and I think these things pass. x

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