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The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out!

by Troy Cummings


The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out! by Troy Cummings addresses questions of fear, bravery (courage), and empathy as Eensy learns to believe in herself and her climbing abilities.

Eensy the Spider embarks on her usual journey of climbing down a water spout, but on this particular day rain comes and flushes her out. Now Eensy is scared to climb again, and has lost all of her climbing confidence. Her friend Polly notices that Eeensy is feeling down about this, and encourages her to try climbing again, starting off with a small potted plant. After climbing the plant, Eensy begins to believe that she can in fact climb, and finds the bravery to try climbing a fire hydrant. Successful in her climb, she gains the courage to climb even larger things, eventually working her way up to climbing a rocket ship and blasting off into the heights of space.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out! is a story about a spider named Eensy who slips off of a water spout on day. Eensy climbs up this water spout so often that it is something that is almost natural for her. Even worse, she fell off of the water spout in front of a bunch of other spiders and is embarrassed as well as frightened. She’s humiliated and feels as though she could never climb again. This book presents many ideas that are good for philosophical discussion: empathy, bravery, and fear.

Eensy and Polly’s friendship illustrates the concept of empathy. Polly understands where Eensy’s fear of climbing comes from and doesn’t invalidate it but instead encourages her to be strong and move past it. She acknowledges Eensy’s fear but also comforts her and reassures her that she will climb again. Empathy is an important concept for children to learn, understand, and be able to do because it helps with all types of relationships and allows them to understand the feelings of others while also being a good friend.

Eensy shows a lot of bravery during the course of the story. Eensy feels sad and humiliated when she falls off the spout because it was always something she was good at. With the help of her friend Polly, Eensy decides that she is going to try climbing again, but first with something small. She eventually works her way up to bigger and bigger challenges. Being brave doesn’t mean you have to do something big and wild, it can just be something small and new that you’ve never done before. It can even be something you have done before you just might be a little scared or nervous to do. Eensy exhibits bravery when she tries climbing again after falling down. It is important for children to discuss the idea that bravery can be about small things as well as big things. Accomplishments are important and valued no matter the size.

Eensy experiences fear when she attempts climbing again after falling. It can be scary to do something new or even something you have done before but you’re not that quite confident in doing. Fear is normal and a common feeling for everyone to experience, especially in new situations. Fear is an important topic of discussion, not only because of Eensy, but because it is important for children to know that it is good to face your fears and okay to have them to begin with.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion


  1. Do you think that it is important that Polly cheered Eensy on and had belief in her when Eensy didn’t have it in herself?
  2. Why do you think Polly wanted to help Eensy?
  3. Can you have empathy for anyone or only certain people?
  4. Can you think of a time where you showed empathy for someone else?
    How can you show empathy?


  1. Do you think that Eensy was brave when she started climbing the pot, the house, the waterspot, and all the other tall buildings? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think Eensy was afraid when she started climbing the taller buildings?
    Can you be brave if you are not afraid of something?
  3. Have you ever done something brave but didn’t feel very brave at the time?
  4. Do you have to do something dangerous to be brave?
  5. Is bravery a good feeling?


  1. Why was Eensy afraid at the beginning of the story?
  2. Can you still be afraid to do something even if you’ve done it many times? Why or why not? If you do think this is possible, give an example of when this might be true. Ask others what they think of that example.
  3. Do some things make you more afraid than other things?
  4. Do you think Eensy faced her fear? Did he overcome her fear? Why or why not?
  5. Is there a difference between facing your fears and overcoming your fears? Give examples. Is one more brave than the other?
Download & Print Email Book Module Back to All Books
Back to All Books Cover illustration The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out! by Troy Cummings featuring a colorful drawing of a small black spider with a red scarf falling off of a water spout. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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