Teaching kids to care for animals

Learning to care for animals provides an invaluable experience for your child; it helps them to build empathy, they learn about responsibility, and how to gain trust and build relationships. 

I know what you’re thinking… but…all of this doesn’t mean you need to race out and by your child a pet! You don’t need to have your own pets to get your little ones used to animals. Start small by exploring in your garden or local park: by doing this, your kids can see creatures in their natural habitats. If you first introduce insects then this will help your children to respect the smallest of species - watching beetles, worms, ants and spiders go about their busy lives is fascinating to young children.

Furthermore, these are memories you can create for free! Look together under stones and leaves and talk about how the mini-beasts move, what they eat and what they look like - you won’t need to venture far! Gradually, it will begin to dawn on your child that these are active living creatures just like them, and voila - here you have the raw understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around number 1 (a notion that most preschoolers are not yet aware of).

For me, this is the part of my job that I love the most, witnessing first hand those transformations. I also like to take things one step further by sharing my enthusiasm for exotic animals - you can hire me for children’s parties where I’ll bring along some of my more exotic creepy crawlies. This will not only contribute to those beginning steps, as mentioned above, but will also teach your kids that there are many different environments and habitats all over the world and that different species adapt and grow in these areas, species that not all of us will get to meet - unless of course you hire an Animal Man!

Children learn by watching others: if you have a pet or you have friends or neighbours with a friendly pet, you could introduce your child to the animal and show them how to gently approach and touch or stroke the creature.

The 'a-ha' moment of realisation that animals need care, attention and kindness is the moment to cherish. The breakthrough can come when your child strokes the cat with a gentle hand, or lifts the hamster onto his lap - being careful not to drop them. It takes time to foster this kind of respect - but it's well worth it as all these emotions of tenderness are transferred to the way your kids interact with their parents and peers.

Introducing story books about animals, rhymes and songs along with educational preschool TV programmes is also a must. A favourite of mine can be found on CBeebies, it’s called Mini-beast Adventure with Jess - would love to have my own show, just like that!