Animal Savvy, Positively Green by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
By Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
This time of the year, it seems that animals of all types are everywhere! Petting zoos, parks, neighbors and friends all seem to have some kinds of animals that are more than happy to come share in the great spring weather. Taking your family to meet and interact with animals can also be a great way to motivate your children to become more interested in the natural world. Animals are often very high interest for kids, and are a great introduction into the wonders of the outdoors.
When interacting with animals, either in a planned or unplanned environment, it is important to remember a few safety tips that will make your experience pleasant for your family and safe for the animals as well. With a little pre-teaching to your children, you can help to be sure that their interactions with animals are safer for everyone. Remember these five hints and you’ll be off to a GREAT start:
G Go only to places that are approved for public access. In some parks, farms, or other places where animals are available for viewing, there may be some parts of the area which are off limits to visitors. In park settings, stay on approved trails, and you may still be able to see small animals that live near the paths. Whether it’s for the safety of the animals, the environment, or the other visitors, it’s important that you are respectful of the public access, even if sneaking around that fence would give you a better view.
R Remind children (and adults!) about some basic rules for interacting with animals before setting out. Around animals, people should talk calmly, and avoid harsh or aggressive movements. By being calm around the animals you’re more likely to have the animals come closer for better viewing. In a situation where you encounter an animal unexpectedly on a trail or other area, being calm may also Also, you should not feed or give anything to the animals that isn’t supplied by the farm or park. Many animals have special diets and even food that’s ok for a person or house pet can be dangerous to other animals.
E Enjoy the opportunity to interact or view the animals you see. Many organizations have animals displayed for educational or historical purposes for their visitors to enjoy. Even on a nature walk on hiking trails, families may have the opportunity to see native critters in their natural habitat. By teaching children to enjoy, observe, and respect the animals they see, you will be building a love of nature. If your child is afraid of a particular animal for any reason, never force the issue; they’re more likely to stay afraid if you force interaction instead of demonstrating letting them observe from a distance.
A Attend to the animals’ body language and respect their space. Even animals who are used to being on display can be overwhelmed or have bad days. Generally, if an animal has its ears pinned back, is trying to move away, or is beginning to act aggressively it’s best to move away from the animal. Animals are especially sensitive to having their own personal space, and too many visitors can make even the best-behaved animal lose its cool every now and then. Remember, never touch wild animals or animals you do not know!
T Teach your kids to wash their hands or use an antibacterial hand sanitizer every time they handle animals. All animals (even humans!) have germs that can be passed back and forth through petting or other interaction. Many times germs from one animal won’t affect another, but some germs can pass from host to host. Since kids so often place their hands in the mouth, nose, or eyes, it can be especially important to clean hands several times when handling animals.
By following a few GREAT rules, your family is more likely to have a fun, safe, and interesting visit to your local exhibition animals. It’s a great way to introduce kids of all ages to the natural world. By being a respectful visitor to your local animal organization you not only support their mission, but also demonstrate how much you appreciate their effort in making their animals available for everyone to see. Teaching kids the right way to interact with animals and nature is a great way to make your family Positively Green!
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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