What children can learn from animals
If there is one thing that can promote children’s learning and development, as well as travelling to different places and seeing different cultures, it has to be living or working with animals. What is it about animals that can bring out the best in kids and why is it that developing their instinctive love of animals does not lead to fostering their so-called ‘animal instincts’?
The healing power of animals has long been recognised. Therapeutic swims with dolphins, dog-stroking sessions at care centres and exciting school trips to the zoo are just a few examples of this. A recent French study has conclusively proved that pets can improve children with autism’s social skills in a way that other more complex therapeutic interventions simply cannot. Results showed that pets helped to develop the ability to share food or toys with others and to improve the likelihood of their offering comfort to parents or children who were sad or hurt.
Domestic pets– such as dogs, cats, hamsters and even goldfish–provide children with so many learning opportunities and therapeutic benefits. Pets can help to ease loneliness, reduce stress and anxiety, promote social interaction, encourage taking responsibility, provide opportunities for exercise and engage children in creative play. Oh, and of course there is unconditional love and affection, too.
Having a pet does not suit everyone’s lifestyle, however, but there are plenty of opportunities for kids to learn from animals without owning one.
Organisations such as Projects Abroad, for instance, offer families or older children alone the opportunity to volunteer abroad in a host of exciting locations and work with animals. Available projects range from conservation work with endangered species of giraffes in Kenya, protecting marine life whilst diving in Thailand and even working with the animals that support the nomadic life of Mongolian tribes.
Closer to home there are riding stables looking for volunteers, local animal shelters, wildlife groups, opportunities to pet sit or dog walk for family friends and many other ways your children can learn and develop whilst working with animals.
The magic of animals is that children learn and develop without even realising it. They learn to care, to interact, to recognise needs, to play and to understand. From animals they learn to be fully.