Kids and lizards: Jordan woman lets pre-schoolers pet iguanas at the MOST

When I was a kid, I was afraid of lizards. Even salamanders made me queasy.

If I'd had someone like Diana Sleiertin to show me there's nothing to fear from those cold-blooded scaly vertebrates, maybe she'd have calmed my nerves.

"You have to allow children to touch and pet the various animals to understand the different textures and see their different colorations," said Sleiertin, owner of MaxMan Reptile Rescue.

So kids are getting up close and personal with reptiles Thursday Jan. 21 at The Most in the former Jefferson Street Armory in downtown Syracuse. Presented by Maxman and Didi's Dream Farm, the program's called "Touch, Sight & Sound: Reptiles for Young Children."

While MaxMan introduces children to the scaly creatures, Didi's will display farm animals, mammalian rather than reptilian.

Sleiertin will introduce kids to Speedy, a sulcata tortoise; Maxine, a green iguana; Rocco, a Cuban rock iguana; Charming George, an African horned frog (also known as a Pacman Frog); and Desi, a female boa constrictor.

There will also be scorpions and tarantulas on visual display only: no touching allowed!

Didi's Dream Farm is sharing Tessa, a 7-month-old pigmy goat; Joker, a Romanov/Suffolk lamb, about 8 weeks old; and Wilber, a pot-belly pig, about 5 months old.

"Those animals were all rescued from being sent to a slaughter-house," Sleiertin said.

Besides seeing and feeling the reptiles, kids learn how different animals perceive the world.

"We talk about how animals see -- dogs only see black and white while reptiles see in color. Lizards see very well, spiders do not," Sleiertin said. "And we talk about how reptiles smell with their tongues."

The scorpions look different under different light. "They glow under black light," Sleiertin said. "And we will have our tarantulas -- to show what a fuzzy spider looks like."

To transport the reptiles from her home in Jordan, Sleiertin places them in boxes and duffel bags. "Those in the duffels get hand-warmers in the bags to help keep them warm, and the car is turned on and heated up for about an hour well before the animals are moved into it," she said.

Speaking of hand-warmers, Maxman Reptile Rescue can use a few more more.

"We're always looking for donations and they don't have to be in monetary form, Sleiertin said. "In the winter, we welcome donations of 'HotHands' heat packs since we literally go through hundreds of them during the winter."

To donate, visit maxmanreptilerescue.com or didisdreamfarm.com.

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