Children are drawn to animals from a young age. Introducing animals into your child’s life is a great way to teach them things, encourage activities, peak their interests, and improve their physical and emotional health.
This post was written by Chelsy Ranard.
Children are drawn to animals from a young age. Their favorite television shows and movies are filled with talking animals, we teach them the sounds that animals make, and we give them stuffed animals to sleep with.
Children who don’t have a ton of interaction with real animals as pets or during other activities are still taught to connect to them through different forms of entertainment. For this reason, children are naturally interested in animal companionship in one way or another.
Introducing animals into your child’s life is a great way to teach them things, encourage activities, peak their interests, and improve their physical and emotional health.
A Way to Learn
Spending time with animals is a great way to teach your child about a number of different things. Children learn about the sounds they make, how to identify them, and where they live at a young age. Hearing a dog bark and reading it in a book are very different experiences for children and allowing your child to observe an animal will teach them a lot about animal behavior.
Learning about the lineage of dogs from wolves, what an omnivore is, why cats need their claws, why chickens are raised, how to sit on a saddle, what it means to be cold-blooded, or how fish live underwater are all great lessons for children to learn firsthand while interacting with an animal.
Being around an animal will also teach children about safety. Exposing children to a variety of different experiences will help them to be more confident people in the long run. Being around an animal will help their confidence around animals and teach them to be safe with them.
Children taught to handle pets correctly and understand things like how to hold a kitten without hurting it, how to approach a dog appropriately, and where to avoid standing around a horse can avoid injury to the animal and themselves.
Many Options for Activities to Explore
Finding an animal activity to help teach your children these lessons about animals can be done in a variety of different ways from spending time with a pet to going to the zoo:
- Teach your kiddos how to make your family dog sit, shake, and lay down. This will build trust for both of them and help your child understand how a dog communicates.
- Take your child to the aquarium and decide which animal is their favorite. Once you are home, research some cool facts about that animal; your child will probably have a lot of questions about it.
- Take them horseback riding. Big animals like horses can be intimidating for children, horseback riding will show them how gentle they are and the safety measures to take around them.
- Take a trip to the petting zoo. This will teach your child to be gentle when touching animals and the proper way to feed them.
- Decide on a trip to the zoo and ask them questions instead. Why do you think tigers have stripes? What did you learn about the elephants? Why were the monkeys your favorite?
Appealing to Their Interests
Making a conscious effort to have your children spend more time around animals is a great way to appeal to their interests. If your child loves Legos have them build a little castle for their fish tank if they love to play outside create a bug terrarium, if they love drawing look up a new animal and have them draw it.
There are so many projects and learning opportunities that can cross between animals and another activity. If they already love animals, teach them about the dogs at the animal shelter and teach them about the importance of volunteering or helping the animal community.
Teach them about the jobs they can have with animals when they grow up, what it means for an animal to be endangered, or about animal activism.
Of course, not all children are interested in animals – just like not all children enjoy playing video games or learning about history.
The important thing to do is to make sure your child isn’t afraid of animals due to a bad experience or not being exposed to them. Otherwise, a disinterest in animals is okay and children shouldn’t be forced to like animals just like we shouldn’t force them to like riding their bike.
It’s just our job to make sure they treat animals nicely and understand how to be cautious around them.
Animals offer all sorts of benefits to children and adults alike. From a health standpoint, your pet can lower your child’s likelihood of developing animal-related allergies. Animal owners also tend to have healthier hearts and live a more active lifestyle.
From a mental health and emotional standpoint, animals make us happier, give us a sense of purpose, and help us to feel needed.
Children are able to learn social cues from animals, feel accepted by them, and how to be responsible by caring for them. Many animals are used for comfort animals or therapy animals for children as well. Horses, for instance, are sometimes used in therapy to help children with motor control.
Some dogs are used as support animals to offer a low-stress social interaction to build confidence. Even just spending time with an animal or taking care of a pet is enough to get the emotional benefits of animal interaction.
From horseback riding to creating an ant farm, there are a ton of animal activities available to children. Children should have the opportunity to connect with animals on a realistic level in order to learn from them, do activities with them, and decide if they are interested in them. In doing so children are being educated, doing something fun, learning social interactions, and benefiting from them emotionally.
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Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is passionate about animals, enjoys spending time with her family, and prefers her coffee cold. Follow her on Twitter!