Introducing your child to animals

The lure of all things cute and fluffy is irresistible to most children and many adults - but you don't need to have your own pets to get your little ones used to animals.

Learning to care for animals and treat them with kindness is an experience that children can easily transfer to their relationships with other humans too - it helps to build empathy, understanding and respect for both their peers and adults.

But how can you provide your child with this valuable experience without having to go down the route of actually owning a pet?

Start in  your local park or garden

Little children tend to have quick, jerky, unpredictable movements which can frighten animals - not a good start for a positive relationship between child and animal! 

The best place to start exploring the wonders of the animal kingdom is in your back garden or local park where children can see creatures in their natural habitat.

Watching beetles, worms, ants and spiders go about their busy lives is fascinating to young children. 

Look together under stones and leaves and talk about how the minibeasts move, what they eat and what they look like. Gradually, it will begin to dawn on your child that these are active living creatures just like them. 

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 her 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 they interact with other children and adults.

How CBeebies can help

Understanding that feathery and furry creatures are not toys is quite a leap for young children. 

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.

Talk about how characters in various CBeebies shows handle and care for animals - a good example is My Pet and Me. The presenters Rory and Ferne show children a variety of different animals - from cats and dogs to Giant African Land Snails and Kunekune pigs!

The programme shows how loving and rewarding our relationships with animals can be, as well as providing interesting facts about animals and the work involved in caring for a pet.

And it's doesn't have to be all about the cute and fluffy. Demonstrate a respect and interest in all kinds of creatures - whether it's a wriggly worm, a slimy slug or a pretty butterfly. Watch Minibeast Adventure with Jess together, and use the minibeast spotter to record the creatures you find when you're out and about.

All My Pet and Me
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