Wildlife presenter Chris Packham has spoken out against parents who stop their children interacting with nature, adding: "They have got to be stung, slimed, slithered on and scratched."
The Springwatch host said allowing youngsters to get up close with wildlife should be an essential part of growing up but they are made to feel fear by adults who stop them climbing trees or insist on them using anti-bacterial gel after touching animals.
The naturalist, 53, told The Times he recalled being licked by a giraffe on a visit to a zoo as a child and being ordered to wash his hands and face by his mother.
Chris Packham, television presenter and wildlife expert, likes being licked by giraffes
"I had been licked by a giraffe! I didn't want to wash it off," he said.
He added that he has since allowed hand-reared wolves to lick him "many times".
"Wolves' mouths are packed with bacteria which are perfect for healing," he added.
He went on: "This whole process is alien to children because they want to pick it up and touch it. The feel of worms, the
feel of a caterpillar inching up their finger, the marvel of a ladybird gyrating round that finger and getting to the top of it turning this way and that and then taking flight; that's the stuff of magic. What are you going to do? Wash their hands with gel?
"When you ask a child to open their hands and you squirt that liquid and say, 'Rub that in,' you are saying, 'You are in a dirty and dangerous place.' And when you say to them not to climb the tree because you might fall out and hurt yourself, you are instigating fear in that child.
"Parents are to blame. Clearly we can't blame kids. They are born with the same innate curiosity that all of us were, but parents have pulled back from allowing their kids to engage with it."
Packham narrates Wildlife Jack on the Disney Junior channel from Monday.