Nurturing Love for Animals

Nurturing Love for Animals

Children can thrive when allowed time in natural settings that are full of life that give the opportunity for children to connect with living animals.

Children can bond with household pets, residents at a petting zoo, classroom pets,the neighbourhood cat and even bug they find while playing outdoors . These creatures can spark a lifelong love of animals in young children. 

When children have opportunities to see wildlife, they discover a whole world of wonder. The animals don't need to be large or exotic: even common wild creatures such as ducks, squirrels, and backyard birds will bring a thrill to children. 
Seeing wild animals in nature can become a child’s treasured memory. Wild animals have certain qualities that make them mysterious and exciting to children. Their homes are different from ours, and are built by the animals themselves. Wild animals have to find their own food, and they eat “weird things” like bugs and worms. They have special powers like flying, digging, and climbing (which children often fantasize about).

When children are outdoors and are visited by an animal or when they enter an animal’s space (nature) they feel lucky. It’s as if they’ve been invited into a special world. Bringing a child to a wild place, a wooded park or even just a schoolyard, where there are opportunities to encourage wildlife sightings or other kinds of connections, can help children develop that innate love for animals. 

Research shows that when children are encouraged to care for animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. So by supporting children’s love for animals, you’re helping nurture those all-important feelings of connection as well.
Many parents are concerned that children will yell, chase animals, or even squash bugs. It’s true that children will likely do all of these things! It’s normal, part of how children are learning to play with their own power and explore vulnerability. The truth is, children are doing these things to learn. 
Here are some practical ideas to support children’s love for animals:

  • Set up a bird feeding area outside your classroom window or in another location where the children will be able to view the birds. (Note, many seed mixes contain peanuts, a common allergen. Take precautions if there are allergic children in your care.)
  • Venture outside often! As mentioned, the sight of a common squirrel or even a trail of ants on a sidewalk can be exciting and special. If you do come across wildlife, allow the children to observe and share their discoveries. Encourage their questions and conversations. 
  • Encourage quiet observation. Most of the animals you’ll likely encounter (squirrels, insects, birds) are accustomed to humans, so often they won’t be too afraid of noisy, excited children.• Look and listen for evidence of animals every time you are outdoors. You may see tracks, nests, or other signs of animals. You may hear birds chattering in the cold winter morning. Allow the children to point out their observations and the “clues” that wildlife is everywhere.
  • Encourage children to think about “what it’s like to be that animal”.• If you have a pet, encourage children to participate in caring for the animal. Feeding, changing water, and even decorating an animal’s cage or tank can be important ways for young children to take responsibility for the care of a living, vulnerable creature, and develop confidence in themselves and their abilities as well. (Note: Children should always wash hands after handling animals or animal care items.)