There’s nothing cuter than kids and animals playing together. But it’s important to teach kids how to interact with animals and how to treat them with care and respect to avoid any challenging situations. Kids of all ages can learn how to care for and treat animals just like they learn how to treat other kids. The key is positive reinforcement and understanding.
We know that complex rules or instructions are often hard for younger kids to remember so we’ve tried to slim these down into easy to remember rules for kids:
- Ask nicely – Many people teach their children to ask for things nicely. Apply this same lesson towards interacting with animals. Always ask if it is ok to approach or pet the animal first. While it may be commonplace for them to approach their own pet, keeping this rule in mind will help when they see other animals outside your home.
- Tails are like hair – we don’t pull – Kids are fascinated by animal tails. It is important to explain to children that pulling on a dog or cat’s tail is like having their hair pulled. It hurts and we certainly do not want to hurt the animal so we should not do that. This gives them a reference point and helps to teach them empathy for animals.
- No running please – This is a common lesson that children hear. No running in schools. No running at the pool. No running in the house. So applying it to no running towards animals is a simple transition for them to understand. When animals see children running towards them, they could go into fight or flight mode which has unpredictable outcomes.
- Inside voices – Animals are often afraid of kids because they like to squeal and scream and yell so teaching children to use their inside voices around animals will help prevent the animal from being spooked. Teaching them to speak softly to animals also encourages care and kindness.
Teaching kids how to interact with animals at an early age is important to setting them up for a lifetime of strong animal relationships. Check out Echidna Walkabout and their blog about respecting wild animals!
Hi, great post. I work with wild animals in Australia, and all of these work well with wild animals too.
I have one to add – don’t surround an animal. They can feel trapped which can elicit a fight or flight response.