I can sleep through anything but this is ridiculous... Is he done yet?

Fun with Animals!

by: Diane Flynn Keith
posted: February 19, 2005

Most little kids are attracted to animals of all kinds. There are lots of ways to expose your children to a variety of animals aside from adopting pets. When my kids were little, we made spontaneous trips to pet stores throughout the greater metropolitan area where we live.

We had 3 local pet shops in our town that offered a variety of animals for sale including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, hamsters, snakes, geckos, salamanders, turtles, birds, and fish. The kids loved moving from cage to cage to see all of the different animals. I taught them to never stick their fingers through a cage to pet a critter. I explained that animals can become frightened when you encroach on their space - and may bite to protect themselves. It's not that they aren't friendly -- they are just scared of strangers. That was a concept my children understood and respected.

We visited the stores during the week (not on the weekends) between 10-11 am or 2-3 pm when the store wasn't too busy. Proprietors often feed the animals or clean cages then, and would take the time to explain to my kids what they were doing. My kids asked lots of questions and the store clerks had the time to answer. If my kids didn't ask questions, I would ask questions that might include:

Often, the store clerk would select a gentle animal, remove it from its cage, and invite my children to look at it closely -- and instructed them on how to pet or touch it correctly.

Oh no!  He's getting away. What do I do now mom?

Anytime that I could incorporate a visit to a pet store into running errands -- I did so. The kids always learned something and gained a deep appreciation for the other creatures that share this planet. (By the way, visiting the pet store was a great way to reward good behavior during long errand runs and grocery shopping as well.)

Another way to see and learn about animals is to visit animal shelters or your local Humane Society. Before you go, call in advance to ask if they have special docent-led tours and ask if they are suitable for your children's age-range. You might even be able to arrange a private tour for a small donation to help the shelter.

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A directory of animal shelters throughout the world.

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Have fun learning more about animals with your little ones!

I also took my kids to dog and cat shows, to petting zoos, to county fairs to see 4-H Club animals, to zoos, aquariums and petting zoos. Some wildlife rehabilitation centers also provide tours of their facilities. Here are some websites with directories of various organizations and facilities that offer opportunities to see and/or touch animals

Use this list to find animal facilities that you can visit with your children:

Have fun learning more about animals with your little ones!