Teaching kids to care for animals

By Jacqueline Harding. Learning to care for animals provides an invaluable experience for your child.

Child with dog near face


The lure of all things cute and fluffy - irresistible to most children and many adults!

The really great thing is that if a child learns to care for animals and treat them with kindness, they can transfer their experience to humans - and foster a sense of 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?

How CBeebies can help

To understand that feathery and furry creatures are not toys offers the young child quite a challenge in terms of a leap in understanding.

The animal kingdom needs careful handling. 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/stroke the creature.

Talk about how characters in various CBeebies shows handle and care for animals - a good example is Auntie Mabel and her canine companion Pippin in Come Outside. The programme shows how loving and rewarding our relationships with animals can be.

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. Your child could watch some Green Balloon Club clips featuring all types of creatures by clicking on the Watch & Listen section on the CBeebies website.

How to make a magic moment

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 first explore the wonders of the animal kingdom is in your back garden or local park where they 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 under leaves and talk about how the minibeasts move, what they eat, what they like. Gradually, it will begin to dawn on your child that these active creatures are living.

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 - careful not to drop them. It takes time to foster this kind of respect - but it's worth it as all these emotions of tenderness are transferred to the way they interact with other children and adults.

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Top tips

  • Visit a local farm and say hello to all the animals. (Make sure your child washes their hands after touching the animals.)Always ask a pet owner before allowing your child to stroke their pet - better to be safe than sorry.Get a close look at some minibeasts by using a bug box with a magnifying glass lid (releasing the creatures once your child has taken a peep at them).Make your own wormery with a clear plastic bowl filled with earth, earthworms and damp leaves on top. Place black paper around the sides and watch the worms tunnel around.

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