An Education in Crabs

September 8, 2015 at 8:51 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , )

Not too long ago, I wrote an article for that featured this paragraph:

Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs are fantastic little creatures. You might even have fond memories of fishing them out of the ocean yourself or keeping them in your elementary school classroom. Hermit crabs are popular, and with good reason. They are just about the least expensive terrarium dweller you can hold.

A small plastic container, a fish bowl, or an old tank you find at a garage sale – almost anything can serve as a hermit crab habitat. Fill the bottom with sand and rocks and place a tray of water and a few extra shells larger than the one the crab currently inhabits in the tank. Again, only $10 spent at your local Wal-Mart or pet store can set you up for life of the crab.

The crab itself will cost anywhere from $5 – $15 and their food will cost about $3 per can. While that may sound like a lot for a hermit crab, these cans last quite awhile. All in all, you could easily have a hermit crab join your family for an initial cost of $20 – $40, depending on what you choose to purchase. –

A few weeks ago, however, we went to the beach and caught ourselves a few hermit crabs with our four year old.  Remembering my own article, I thought, we should keep these – it would be a fun starter pet and kiddo has already been begging for a new pet.  (We have two dogs, but you know kids, they want tiny creatures to pester and nurture.)

So I headed up to the gift shop and bought a hermit crab kit. $25.  It came with a free crab, but I told the lady at the counter that we had two downstairs under the dock.

“Oh, those are saltwater.  They’ll die if you take them home and don’t have a saltwater aquarium.  You should probably take the free one anyway and let those ones go.  These are freshwater brought from Florida.”

“Oh, ok.”

Then, she informed me that it’s best to buy an extra one.  They are community creatures.

“Sure, let’s do it.  We’ll let the other two go and take these two home.”

So, I took the little plastic container downstairs, full of gravel, a shell, a sponge, and food – plus two tiny crabs.house_hermit_crab

We explained to kiddo that the others needed to be free and she had no problem with that, after all, we were taking these fun ones home and she understood that the others had come from the ocean and these two from a shop.  She asked about extra shells, because we’ve read Eric Carle’s Hermit Crab book a thousand times.

We set the crabs up in the house when we got home from the beach that day and made plans to do some research and visit the pet store within the week.  We knew the plastic container was too small for our comfort – but we thought we were just being those people who spoil their pets.  I had no idea. No. Idea.

Nerd that I am, naturally, I bought a book.  I was a little disappointed that it was a “for dummies” title, 51MS-sTSuJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_because I’m a book snob and they seem so over marketed and written – well – for dummies.  BUT, they are actually great starting points for any kind of research on anything.  They are simplistic, concise, and give you the terms you need to dive deeper.  Terms you wouldn’t know to look up otherwise.  Like wikipedia, but more reliable, except the links aren’t necessarily up to date.

So it turns out, hermit crabs ARE community creatures.  In the wild they live with hundreds of other crabs.  It also turns out that the smallest container you want for these guys is a ten gallon tank for two small crabs.  Cheap guru that I am, I could have gotten one from a garage sale, but I didn’t.  I gave my sister our unused 20 gallon tank when we moved and my niece’s and nephews now have a tiny pet turtle.  I went the lazy route and bought a brand new ten gallon at PetsMart.  $30. (If you’re keeping track – remember my article peaked at a $40 expense to keep a crab alive.  So far in this story we’re at $55 pre-tax.)


I bought more gravel to cover the bottom of the tank. $10.  I bought a crab shack because they need a place to hide. $8. A fake plant my daughter loved to make “it all so beautiful.” $4 (Actually, she paid for that one.) I was feeling pretty good about this terrarium.  Really good.

Then, I served pinterest.  I know.  Pinterest!

It led me to a lot of websites, blogs, and hermit crab advocates.  I discovered that I wasnP1030909‘t supposed to have gravel in the tank. They don’t like gravel.  They like soil substrate.  They like to bury themselves.  Not just like, they NEED.  Hermit crabs molt and to do so, you need 6 inches of soil for them to dive into.  Also, they’re climbers.  They want tree limbs.  Also, each crab needs its own hiding place, so one crab shack won’t cut it.  They want to live together but need their own bedrooms.  Who knew?

Also, they need a fresh water pool and a salt water pool.  So you need two kinds of water conditioners.  And two kinds of pools. And a mister to keep their climate humid enough because they have evolved gills – they can’t breathe in dry air.

By this time, I lost track of itemizing – but one trip to PetCo later and I’d spent another $70 or so.  While I was there, I also bought a wheat-germ plant that they had for sale for cats, but is actually good for crabs, which the workers didn’t know, I had just discovered this in all my internet surfing and wild book reading at the library.

I still need a heater, but I can’t afford one at the moment.  We’re in Texas, so I set the tank outside if I think they’re getting too cold – but come winter, these guys are having another $50-$100 spent on them.

On the plus side: I think they’ll live.  In captivity – because we con people into $25 habitats that slowly kill the crab – they live 3 months to 3 years.  In the wild, they live up to 30 years.  We’re shooting for a longer lifespan here.  We’re also using this as an educational project… we’re building an ecosystem.  Soon, we’ll add rolly pollies (they help keep the terrarium clean and co-habitate well with the hermies… again, who knew?)


(Additional notes: hermit crabs can eat from your kitchen and like a wide variety of things in their diet that include meat, vegetables, and fruits.  We have begun a notebook compiling these lists.  One of ours has already changed shells twice – because he’s indecisive, not because he’s growing so much – and apparently this is common so it’s good to have not just one or two shells but a wide variety of empties at their disposal.)

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Baby Bear

January 23, 2013 at 2:21 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

baby-bear-480Title: Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

Author: Bill Martin, Jr.

Illustrator: Eric Carle

Publisher: Puffin

The Kiddo has definitely picked her favorite for the week, and Oh-My-Lands, if I never have to read this book again it would be too soon! It’s actually not that bad, I’ve just read this book about seven times a day for a week straight, and that’s at a minimum.  She’s at the age where she likes familiar, predictable, and oh so repetitive things.

She likes being able to tell me, “This Red Fox,” except fox sounds like something else entirely, something unprintable and disconcerting coming out of your two year old.  The x sound is not her forte.  She’ll get there, after all, she hears it enough.

Her favorite animal is the Striped Skunk.  I’m not sure if it’s the stark black and white contrast of the picture or the way the phrase sounds, but that’s definitely the page we go back to over and over again.

She likes to explain to me that the Mule Deer and the Striped Skunk are like Bambi and Flower.  That is important to her, knowing that I know that she recognizes that these are similar but not the same thing.

I like that book goes through one particular region.  When you open the book, the first thing you see, even before the title page, is that Carle has painted a forest.  It seems insignificant, but I think it’s a nice touch that sets the tone for the animals to come.  It says, “this is where you are going, the animals you discover live here…”  Then we start meeting them and it’s like taking a trip to Colorado without even leaving her bedroom.

One day, I’d like for us to build a Baby Bear diorama.  I think she would really like reciting the book while sliding a paper doll of baby bear past all his friends and on towards his mother.

Polar Bear, Panda Bear, and every other Bear book by Bill Martin are definitely on our To Buy list.  If you’re still on the fence, check out this other reviewer’s take on it:

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – better late than never

March 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How Do You Hug A Porcupine by Laurie Isop

I love this one, and so did Ayla, but I must admit that I’m a little nervous about insinuating that the practice of hugging porcupines is acceptable at all! It reminds me of Dora the Explorer having picnics with snakes and bears.  Possibly a silly concern, but that’s what pops up in my head nonetheless.  We read this several times this last week.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

Eric Carle is always a good read, as I’ve said in the past, I love his illustrations and so does the kiddo (who doesn’t?).  This particular book is especially neat because Carle gives tribute to the idea being inspired by the kids he has visited in the past.  I thought that was a nice touch.

I Am The Biggest Thing In the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

Our absolute favorite this week! We read this over and over again and plan to purchase a copy first chance we get.  Its always great (even if a little shocking) when a kids book surprises even the adults in the room, every time, without fail.

How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends by Jane Yolen

We’re on a mission to collect all the Jane Yolen dinosaur books, so imagine my excitement when I came across this one at a school carnival! Of course, we both adored it, but Ayla still prefers the bedtime one best.  Because she’s familiar? Or because its better? I don’t know.

Lullaby and Goodnight by Jill Ackerman

Ayla discovered this at Half Price Books and just had to have it.  We bought it, brought it home, and she’s gone to bed with it every night since then.  She loves the light up moon feature, and rocks back and forth to the song.  If we tell her to ‘push the star’ she gets so excited, knowing it will start the song again.

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The Enrichment of Eric Carle (at Half Price)

February 9, 2012 at 3:05 am (Events, In So Many Words) (, , , , , , )

Today is Wednesday.  Wednesday has a new ring to it now that I’m hosting story time every week at 10:30 am on behalf of Half Price Books in the Humble location’s Half Pint section.

It was a quiet crowd today, only three children munching on the provided snack, listening to Duckie Duck by Kate Toms and Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle, to name a few.  It is always a pleasure seeing the younger crowd fall in love with books and enjoy a calming sit down with the work of our favorite authors, but today I found myself doing what I used to love best about working in a bookstore again – I was educating.

Kids and parents alike enjoy someone guiding them in their discoveries, just as when I am shopping, I too love for retailers to point out their favorites, clerks to tell me what they’ve been reading lately.  Today as I read Mister Seahorse, I got to share the fact that Eric Carle has a museum in Massachusetts, a fact few families seem to know down here in Texas, but almost all respond with wide eyes and dropped jaws.  ‘That sounds amazing!’ I often hear people saying.  I agree, and I plan to take my daughter there one day on a vacation.

The beauty of The Eric Carle Museum, which feeds my desire to take my child there, aside from the art itself, is their mission:

The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book. In fulfilling our mission, we aspire to build bridges to an appreciation of art of every kind and to provide an enriching, dynamic, and supportive context for the development of literacy. We deliver this mission by collecting, presenting and celebrating the art of the picture book from around the world and by providing interactive experiences and programs that are engaging and educational.

Humble HPB Half Pint Section

That same mission, building a bridge of art appreciation and developing literacy, is how I choose my child’s books in the first place.  It’s not enough to have an amazing story but boring art, it’s also not enough to have amazing illustrations and a terrible story.  The building blocks for enriching a child’s mind are in a smooth marriage of those two things and Eric Carle has always seemed to manage that joining.

I hope, by choosing books to read and presenting them to children each week as part of my Event Coordinating duties, Half Price Books can be a venue for which I can share these kinds of books with new minds, and this mission with other parents – at half the price.

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Exposure is Everything

November 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My whole life I have been enthralled by the world of books.  As a child, I was an avid reader the school librarian could not keep appeased.  I lived in the worlds of Laura Ingalls, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and more.  Although I went to college to study business, as soon as I was out I sought a position in a bookstore; my dream was to run the literature section, and I did.  I worked there for some years, fully stocked up my home collection, became the inventory manager, but then had a baby and so left the company.

We have 17 overflowing bookshelves in our house and books stacked on every available end table in between.  I have been gathering up children’s titles throughout my pregnancy until now for my daughter, preparing for a lust of the written word comparable to mine.

People keep warning me that she may not want to read, she may not like it like I do.  They keep telling me I cannot force my child to enjoy my hobbies.

I am not forcing her.  I am making the written word available.  She sees books everywhere, she sees people enjoying books everywhere.  In addition to our own collection that we read from every day, we visit the public library for group readings and she sees people outside her family unit gathering to enjoy a book.

My daughter is one year old, and already she often chooses Eric Carle over a stuffed animal.  She brings me Rainbow Fish and expects me to read it aloud while she sorts her blocks.  It seems sometimes as though she is not actually listening, just sorting her belongings, until I stop reading and she looks up and points at the book.  My daughter sorts through her picture books and flips through the pages, she even has her own little cushioned rocking chair she climbs into to do it.  She rocks and pretends to read while I lounge and read in our library in our house.

My daughter loves books, and I am both amazed and proud.  I implore the world to make books available to their children from a young age.  Read aloud to them, they cannot help but be interested and thirsty for stories and knowledge.

Get Your Kid Started!

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