By Chelsy Ranard
Kids know what a dog says, what a cow says, and what a pig says early on. Their movies and books are filled with talking animals, so kids learn to love animals and be interested in them from a young age. Being interested in animals is great for kids and offers so many learning opportunities for them. Handling an animal is important for children to learn to be gentle when petting and holding them, seeing exotic animals is great for learning about different places and species, and interacting with them will teach them a different set of social skills. Participating in animal related activities is a useful way to include animals in your child’s life.
A Trip to the Zoo
Zoos are very family friendly places and your little one is sure to enjoy seeing all of the different types of animals. This activity is great for kids of all ages and adults alike. Encourage your kiddo to ask questions and learn about the animals they are seeing. Find out which animal was their favorite and tell them as much as you know about it, ask a zoo associate, or learn about it together at home. As much as the zoo is a place for entertainment, it’s also a great place for learning and experiencing new things. Take a trip to the zoo as an opportunity to teach your children about different places in the world that they don’t know about yet, issues facing certain animals they may be seeing, and the biology of each animal and why their differences help them to survive in the wild.
Visiting the Aquarium
Aquariums were always great activities for kids, but after many books, movies, and television shows for kids included marine life, kids are even more interested in water animals. They will be able to point out fish that look like Nemo, starfish that look like Patrick, and which fish looks like the rainbow fish. They will be able to see animals from small, colorful fish to larger sharks and other predatory fish. Some aquariums offer a more interactive experience from touching sea urchins to feeding stingrays. This experience will teach your children to be gentle and careful with the animals while encouraging them to take part in the exhibit without being afraid. Similar to the zoo experience, encourage your kiddos to ask questions and learn more.
Go to a Wildlife Sanctuary
Taking your children to a wildlife sanctuary is a great way to get your kids involved in a great cause while getting them interested in an experience with animals. Unlike many other zoos or aquariums, wildlife sanctuaries house animals that are unfit to be in the wild. Animals that are injured, born in captivity, or endangered may not be fit to be introduced into the wild and live at a sanctuary in order to remain safe. Teaching your children that these animals are being bred, nursed back to health, or kept safe will help to educate your kids on what can happen to animals in the wild and that it’s important to try and help them.
Try Horseback Riding
Horses are great animals to socialize with your children. Unlike cats or dogs, they are a little more intimidating but are extremely intuitive animals. Horses and horseback riding are used for equine therapy in treatment centers, for children with learning disabilities, those experiencing PTSD, etc. The reason why horses are used for therapy is because they offer low-stress social interaction and a physical activity all in one. Taking your kids horseback riding will teach them how to get on the saddle, steer the horse, and the safety tips necessary to remember when interacting with a horse. Your kiddo will get a more independent experience steering their own horse, or they can ride with you, or be led by a handler. Either way, though, they will have an unforgettable experience with a beautiful animal.
Volunteer at a Shelter
Allowing your kids to volunteer at an animal shelter is better for older kids than younger kids, but it’s an activity that will allow your children the perks of social interactions with animals while teaching your kids to give back to the community. Teaching children the importance of helping the less fortunate and being involved in the community are both valuable lessons that your children might be more interested in when it involves animals. There are plenty of organizations that have volunteer programs for people of all ages where your child can help bathe the animals, play with them, or take them on walks.
Socialization is great for the animals and greatly benefits the kids as well. Having real experiences with animals will teach your children more than they will be able to learn about animals from television, movies, or books. Having real, hands on experiences with animals will peak their interests, educate them about new things, and teach them how to interact with animals in a positive way. Going to the zoo, an aquarium, a wildlife sanctuary, an animal shelter, or horseback riding are all great ways to include animal related activities in your child’s life.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is passionate about animal welfare, loves talk radio, and volunteers weekly at Simply Cats in Boise.