C..A..T…CAT, B..A…T.. BAT - well this is how we learnt about plants and animals in the classroom. “Teacher, how does a chameleon look like?” - we would ask. The teacher’s response “Imagine a lizard with a crown around its head and a long tail.” It was all upto the imagination I say. So no one was to blame when you drew an incorrect chameleon. Ask the teacher, this is what she described it as!
Today’s education system and parents are becoming more conscious about practical learning. Children get to cuddle fuzzy, warm, wet-nosed animals during a farm visit from school. There are many dairy farms that invite families over to pet a cow and experience farm life.
Erin McNew (Education Coordinator for the Jewish Family Services of Cincinnati), says - “the bonds children develop with animals are critical as they learn to love, share, and empathize.”
Children learn a lot of life lessons when they form a bond with the four-legged animals-
Nurturing Emotions and Qualities
When her parents gifted little Mirabel a puppy, the bond was instantaneous. Mirabel found a sibling in Bruno. Sleeping, bathing, walking and playing- they do everything together. When her parents scold Mirabel for being naughty, it’s Bruno to the rescue.
Kindness, love, sympathy, responsibility and respect (the list is endless) are only a few of the emotions and qualities that a child develops while interacting with an animal. “Contact Comfort” or in other words “soft and cuddly” is why babies find animals about as far from boring as things can be minus the human factor.
Stroking, feeding and interacting with animals - be it an iguana or a rabbit or a farm animal helps develop a toddler’s sensory skills. Would you prefer making animal sounds or having your child listening to them? Hearing animal noises in a natural environment is a great way to identify the animals’ unique sounds.
“As young babies begin looking around their world, they are automatically attracted to things that move, are brightly colored, and are easy to see," writes Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., founder of the Baby Signs Program
Learn Life Skills
Why do humans love a well-groomed persian cat or a bathed pig but not a stray dog or a circus panda? Take your child to an animal shelter. When they care for shelter animals, they will learn to empathize with outcasts.
This life lesson will help them protect another human being from bullying or for that matter accept dwarfs and specially-abled children. They will also become adverse to cruelty towards animals which they will emulate in every situation.
Animals are great Listeners and Secret-keepers
Animals make for great listeners. Children who are learning to read or stammer love reading to their pets. Pets don’t judge which boosts their self-confidence. They even confide in their pets. Who else could be a great secret-keeper?
Children sense that animals provide unconditional love and open up in ways that they can’t with humans. Pets, in all shapes and sizes -cats, birds, dogs provide a sense of safety and security which is necessary for both their physical and mental well-being.
We have all heard stories of the talking Gorilla or dreamed of saving a hotel from shutting down with the help of Dunston, the Orangutan (Dunston Checks In movie). A similar story that makes for a great read is “The Great Timbooktu Rescue” where the protagonist befriends an animal and helps saves the village of Timbooktu from a natural disaster.
Watching cartoons like Duck Tales, Tom and Jerryand TaleSpin taught us unforgettable life lessons and we also wished we had pets like them. Who all remember Snoopy (anthropomorphic beagle in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz)? I must confess that on a difficult day watching my favorite cartoons is all the therapy I need. A favorite amongst children and adults alike are the panda videos all over the internet.
Imagining having a rich uncle Scrooge McDuck to going on adventures with Baloo and Kit to having a pet like Snoopy who despite being selfish and gluttonous showed great love and care for his owner made me form an instant connect with animals.