How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Spiders

How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Spiders

Arachnophobia, I've had it for as long as I can remember. As a self-proclaimed nature lover, I was always frustrated at the heart palpitations and general freak out that accompanied my encounters with spiders. Now that I'm raising my own little Wilder Child, I am actively trying to nurture a more balanced relationship with these critters.

I know in my heart there is is a happy place that resides somewhere between kissing spiders and obliterating them from the Earth. Here are a few things that Cora and I are doing to better understand our eight-legged friends:

Hanging Out With Arachnids

Then there was that day I decided to lock myself in the bathroom with a particularly gnarly looking spider. After about a half hour of playing chicken and doing some deep breathing, I was actually able to take it outside (I share my fail-proof live removal method at the end of the post). Weirdly enough, total immersion worked for me. As in, I no longer have to carry an extra pair of pants with me on the off chance that I might encounter a spider.

In our quest to find out where the cool spiders hang out, Cora and I have been lucky to see:
  • A mamma with her babies (looked like she was holding a small sac of miniature marbles)
  • Webs glittering high in the White Pines
  • A funnel spider wrapping up a fly
  • Argiope aurantia (aka the Banana Spider) chillin on its zippered web between the fence posts

The Power of Personification (High school literary term alert!)

Personification - the act of assigning human traits to scary spiders. Cora and I do this a lot because it makes the animal world much more accessible, especially to kids. A Daddy Longlegs on a bicycle handle could easily be heading out to deliver miniature newspapers to the fairies. The Wolf Spider that you find hanging out in the bathtub was most likely just getting cleaned up before heading off to see Spider-Man at the movies.

Trust me, it's hard to be afraid of a jumping spider when you realize it is just training for the International Tango Championships in Argentina. See him dance here.

Rooting for the Underdog

I think it's in almost all of our natures to root for the "losers". It's easy to go gaga for a puppy, but I really have to remind myself to show that level of love for a spiderling. This past Spring we cheered for the tiny spiders slipping in and out of the matted grasses.

We have a lot of power over those smaller than us, and as the great Mahatma Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Cora's watching how I react to the less-loved/misunderstood creatures out there, and hopefully she'll carry that perspective with her into other situations.

Mahatma Gandhi

Context Clues (more literary terms!)

When there's a spider in the house, it can be extra unsettling because they seem so far away and separated from their natural environment. I've tried to put spiders back into context literally by taking them outside, but also by trying to show Cora that they are a part of the big picture - cue The Circle of Life.

We've seen a dragonfly eating a spider before being swooped up by a meadowlark. We've seen flies get caught in webs and webs broken by the wind. Cora and I are both beginning to see spiders as part of a greater story.

So feeling the warm fuzzies yet, or was Gandhi not enough for you? Here's something for those of you still on the fence...

They Wear Hats

When your or the kids are recoiling in fear, just tell them this - jumping spiders sometimes wear water droplets as hats. I promise you it's true.

Original images by Uda Dennie see more of his work here.
Original images by Uda Dennie, see more of his work here.

Become An Arachnid Advocate!

These small, wondrous creatures need a spin doctor. Below is a, How to Stand Up for Spiders printable that you can go over together with your child. It'll give them a few ideas of what to say when someone puts down their favorite creepy friend. Add your own and have fun :)

How to stand up for a spider. And how to stop being scared of them if you are!




Growing Wild Resources

I dug up some great books on spiders below. Also got inspired to create a whole Pinterest board of activities, resources and crafts featuring spiders, bugs, slugs, and even some snakes.

Check out the Wilder Child Creepy Crawly Pinterest BoardBe Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham



Aaarrrgghhh Spider by Lydia MonksAaaarrgghh! Spider!by Lydia Monks








Your Woman Gone Wild,



PS. As promised here is my fail proof, catch & release method for catching spiders:

1) Take a breath

2) Get a glass (I prefer one that is actually see-through) and a piece of mail

3) Put the glass on top of the spider

4) Slowly slip the mail underneath the glass being careful to not life it up to much that the little guy escapes

5) Carry glass outside and release spider

6) Exhale :)
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