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Wonder Ponder, Visual Philosophy for Children, is an imprint specialising in products for fun and engaging thinking. This website provides accompanying material to our Wonder Ponder boxes, including guides for children, parents and mediators, ideas for wonderpondering and fun games and activities. It is also a platform for sharing your very own Wonder Ponder content and ideas.

Wonder Ponder Blog

The Wonder Ponder blog includes posts on the creative processes behind our Visual Philosophy for Children material, as well as workshop experiences, guest posts on a variety of topics and generally interesting, eye-catching or mind-bloggling stuff we feel like sharing with you. 

Five-year old explains why it's more cruel to kill dogs than to kill ants

Ellen Duthie

The first Wonder Ponder box, Cruelty Bites, launched last November witha recommended age of eight and up.

However, the concept of Visual Philosophy for Children and the first materials we created arose within Filosofía a la de tres, a philosophy with preschoolers project set up and run by Wonder Ponder author Ellen Duthie at a state school in Madrid (Spain).  

The first materials the author produced together with illustrator Daniela Martagón were precisely the  proto-materials for the first boxCruelty Bites, and they were initially tested on four-year-olds (some of the kids were still three!).

Below is a transcript of a brief dialogue between a mother and her five-year-old son about one of the scenes in our box, showing a girl killing an ant with a pencil.

Mother: What is the girl doing?

BoyShe's killing an ant with a pointy pencil. 

Mother: Do you think she's being cruel? 

BoyYes, because she's doing it in a really nasty way. Like this: "bang! bang! bang!". 

MotherWhy do you think the way she is killing the ant is nasty?  

BoyBecause look at her face. She looks like a baddy.  

MotherHave you ever killed an ant?  

Boy: Yes, but not in that really nasty way. 

MotherHow did you kill it?  

BoyWell, with my finger, or with my foot, by accident. It wasn't on purpose. 

MotherHave you never killed one on purpose? 

BoyYes, once I killed an ant on purpose with my finger, but it was also a bit by accident. I put my finger on it to see what happened and I killed it. I didn't think it was that easy to kill an ant. It was soft, I thought ants were harder.   

MotherAnd was that cruel of you, do you think? 

BoyI think it was a bit cruel, yes. 

MotherDo you remember last week we found a little ant colony in our kitchen terrace? And do you remember we "cleaned it"? We killed lots of ants. Did you think that was cruel? 

BoyWell, a bit, because they died, but I don't think it's like the girl in the picture. You killed them to protect our food. But this girl is really nasty. Because she's killing the ant in a sort of laughing way, it looks like she's having fun.   

MotherAnd do you think it's more cruel to kill for fun than to kill out of need -or because we think we need to-? 

BoyYes, because killing for fun is no good at all. What's that for? It's just to have fun with something that isn't really much fun at all. But killing out of need, for example to protect food or if a bug bites you, to stop it biting you more, that's different.  

MotherWhat if, for example, we lived in the countryside and a dog came and tried to steal our food. Would we be justified to kill it? 

BoyA dog? No! If a dog came, we could call its owner. And we could tell the owner off for not keeping his dog under control, like when they poo on the road and don't clean it up or when they let them run loose in the park and frighten children.  

Mother: What if the dog didn't have an owner? What if it was sort of wild?  

Boy(brief pause) Oh! I know! We could call a dog shelter! 

MotherWhy do you think it's different, killing a dog and killing an ant? 

Boy: The dog is very big. Killing it would be too cruel.  

MotherSo is it a question of size, then? The bigger the animal, the more cruel it is to kill it?

BoyYes, killing big animals is very cruel. . 

MotherSo do you think it's worse to kill an elephant than to kill a poodle? 

BoyMmmmm. No. No, both things are cruel.  

MotherBut you feel it's more cruel to kill a poodle than to kill an ant. 

Boy: Yes.   

MotherAnd why do you think it is more cruel?  

BoyWell, a dog... is more like a person.  

Mother: How is it more like a person? 

BoyThe eyes. If you look a dog in the eyes, it's like it's talking to you. That doesn't happen with an ant. 

MotherDo you think dogs are more intelligent than ants? 

Boy: Yes, much more intelligent. That's why. 

MotherSo it's more about intelligence than about size?  

Boy: Well, I think it's both. Because even if an elephant had the intelligence of a mosquito, it would also be cruel to kill it.  

MotherDo you think ants suffer? 

BoyI don't know.  

MotherDo you think the ant is frightened? 

BoyI don't know either, but I think so. 

MotherWhy do you think so?  

BoyBecause if you put a finger close to an ant, it goes off in another direction running. It knows there is a danger.  

MotherDo you think the girl deserves a punishment? 

Boy: Yes.

MotherWhat punishment do you think would be appropriate?  

BoyThat all the ants went to her and started biting her.  

MotherAnd if it's in a school, should the teacher think of a punishment?  

BoyYes. 

MotherAnd what would the punishment you would give the girl if you were the teacher?  

Boy: I would tell the ants to bite the girl.  

Mother: Would you think that was fair? 

BoyYes, she would deserve that. "If you kill my friend, I'll bite you. You nasty girl!"

MotherIf you saw a girl or boy doing this, what would you do? 

BoyI'd say: "Hey! Hey! Hey! Pencils are for drawing! Not for killing!"

Mother: Have you enjoyed looking at this together and talking with me about it? 

Boy: Yes, but now it's my turn. Let me ask you... 

MotherGo ahead. 

Boy: What about you? Do you think the girl is being cruel? Why? 

[and the conversation continued...]

(c) Wonder Ponder (An imprint of Traje de lobo S.L.).