Most education experts will tell you that kids pick up most of their core character traits very young. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start teaching them about empathy and caring early on – and the best way to do that is through pets and other animal encounters.
For most people, loving animals comes naturally – but that’s not exactly true. Like most other things, you’ll be more likely to do it (and enjoy it) if your parents spend enough time teaching you about it.
So, as a parent, you should try to find some time to educate your kids about the important roles different animals play in our ecosystem and environment. Also, you can use pets to show them how important (and joyful) it is to care for various creatures.
Remember – encouraging empathy and compassion for pets and other animals doesn’t just benefit those creatures. Your children will prosper as well; throughout this aspect of their personal growth, they’ll also learn to respect other people. They’ll understand the essence of connecting with another living being, deepening their emotional intelligence.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to ensure your kids will develop a healthy emotional relationship with their pets!
Children And Animals – Where To Start?
Instilling empathy in the minds of young children is a potentially difficult task – but an extremely important one nonetheless. And it would be best if you were very careful about what you teach them in this formative period; there’s a big chance they’ll carry this throughout their lives.
So, where do you begin?
For one, it’s a good idea to lead by example – by carefully and thoughtfully playing with pets yourself, you’ll show the kids that it’s safe to approach household pets as long as you do it properly and non-aggressively. In the process, the kids will also learn to appreciate the fun side of interacting with animals, like their funny gestures and the cute faces they make.
In the beginning, you can help kids form an emotional bond with new pets by taking a bunch of photos of them and hanging them all around your home; preferably next to your family pictures. That way, the children will subconsciously become accustomed to your pets being a natural part of the family.
If you do this right, your children will start viewing dogs and cats as their little companions – and they’ll be more comfortable with other animals as well.
Show, Don’t Tell
Okay, you’ll probably have to do some telling as well – but you get what we’re trying to say. Just think of all the situations where kids mimic the behavior of their adult role models and caretakers – which usually means their parents.
For a long time, kids don’t have a critical opinion of their parents. They view us as superheroes that can do no wrong – and as people whose actions are worth emulating. In their earliest childhood, that’s something you can actually use to their benefit.
Make a conscious effort to show your care and love for pets in front of your children. And we don’t mean some grand gestures all of the time – making it a habit to cuddle with your puppy or cat when you get off work will be enough for a start.
In time, you can teach your little ones how to feed the household pets – and even praise them and reward them with treats when they’ve done something right.
Different Animal Activities
Once kids start forming memories, you can start taking them on regular trips to the zoo. That’s important because they’ll see and interact with other animals besides their pets. They’ll meet a bunch of creatures they might have only seen in movies or cartoons – everything from tarantulas to lions.
It’s not just about taking a stroll through the zoo. Try finding fun facts to tell the kids about the various animals as you walk around. This is a great opportunity to show them just how varied, and wonderfully diverse our biosphere is – in time, this will also help them empathize with diverse cultures and people too.
Apart from zoo trips, you could also find a nearby farm to visit. That way, the kids will learn about domesticated animals and know more about all the important ways those domesticated animals contribute to our human society.
Once you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find many other animal-related activities – like going to an aquarium or something more interactive like fishing.
Finally, it’s also important to take your kids on visits to the vet. They should know about the responsibilities that come with taking charge of a pet – and it’s a great way to teach them about responsibility in general.