In these strange times, I find myself missing the little things – a pot of tea in the local cafe, actually being able to see the polite smiles of other pedestrians, Waterstones… (I sound so British.)
The only book shop in our local area, Waterstones has long been my happy place, elevating right to the top of my must-visit list when I discovered the fish tanks in their children’s section, thus beginning my accidental initiation into the power tiny sea creatures can yield over the smaller of our kind.
Now, my little boy is a chatter. He loves being looked at and looking at others. He has a wave for everyone, and he likes to be the centre of my universe at all times – sometimes resorting to whining like a dog if he feels my attention has drifted. He also has the ability to go from silence to screaming in 0-60, as most children do. Put him in front of one of those tanks, however, and he’s stunned into silence. A trip to the local aquarium for his first birthday was a no brainer, then. And I’ve had to seriously talk myself out of buying a huge tropical tank on more than one bad day in lockdown
Anyway! A well filled tank is, in short, hypnotic. And the benefits, too, are brilliant:
- A study by Ocean Conservation Trust, Plymouth University and the University of Exeter found that fish tanks improve physical and mental wellbeing. The impact is so great, in fact, that viewing a tank has shown to reduce both blood pressure and heart rate, essentially making it a natural pacifier. (Great news for little ones that have misplaced their dummy, and aren’t feeling too good about it.) The same principles apply to parents, presenting the opportunity for a peaceful shared experience, that is good for everyone’s health
- Watching fish is a known anxiety and stress buster, making viewing a tank the perfect activity for an overtired/colicky/generally distressed infant. Mentalhelp.net state that “Once an aquarium is established and decorated with rocks and plants, watching fish swim back and forth is stress and anxiety reducing. The gurgling sound of the bubbles add to the therapeutic effect of looking at the tank, as do the colours of both the fish and tank background. Studies show that it (watching a fish tank) can reduce emotional agitation. That is why they (fish tanks) are displayed in such diverse places as dentist offices to nursing homes, restaurants and doctor offices.”
- On a similar note, fish tanks help children, even those with sensory sensitivities, to relax. And, according to Aqualease.co.uk, are “a natural and therapeutic tool to help children suffering with conditions such as ADHD and autism.”
- Watching and listening to a fish tank, complete with filter, counts as a sensory activity. Which helps to develop your little one’s brain, and understanding of the world
- And it gives you a moment of calm, and a minute to yourself. Because you are important too.
So, basically… Fish are an excellent parenting tool, and we should all park up our prams in front of a tank once the world has corrected itself.