There is a great place in Berkeley called The Little Farm, where kids can bring lettuce and celery and feed cows, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, and geese. We’ve gone several times, and have had to deal with children who too were frightened of the animals to attempt to feed them, but then threw tantrums when it was time to leave because they were having so much fun.
I took the girls back to The Little Farm yesterday, and for the first time, the older one actually fed the animals. At first, she would only throw stalks of celery over the fence to the waiting animals (usually hitting the animal, who luckily never seemed to mind). It took a few tries for her to master the art of holding the end of a celery stalk and getting just close enough for the goat or pig to grasp the other end, without freaking out about how close the animal was to her hand. She got in some tug-of-war matches with the goats before understanding when to let go. You really have no idea how much of a learned art feeding a farm animal is until you’ve watched a kid try to figure it out on her own.
She cheerfully dispensed two huge bunches of celery and one bag of lettuce (thrown by the handful to the chickens, turkeys and geese who noisily begged for more). The food was munched heartily amidst the happy squeals of two little girls. My youngest was fascinated by the pigs, shy of the goats, and terrified of the rooster who cock-a-doodle-dooed every few minutes. He was enclosed in a full cage, and we visited him several times so she could see that he was still neatly contained, but every time he crowed, she’d jump and cling to my leg. She also found the cows “big and scary,” but thought the pigs were “just like Wilbur” and even got up the nerve to pet them a few times. I guess all of those viewings of Charlotte’s Web have been good for something. Not calming her hysterical fear of spiders, but warming her up to pigs a bit.