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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM 2  chapter 1 special seems to happen to children in the presence of animals. They are calmer, more curious, and more joyful. I wanted to be able to articulate why. I continued to wonder, can children’s natural love for—​and curiosity about—​animals be dovetailed into meaningful encounters with animals in the classroom? Are encounters with animals really that important? Do they have any real impact on children’s development? Can early childhood ed- ucators provide children with meaningful connections with animals, even if they can’t have animals in the classroom? What about animals at home? What can parents and other caregivers do to deepen and strengthen the strong bonds between their children and the family pets? It’s been my experience, and the research certainly bears it out, that animals can help children develop sen- sitivity to others, they can offer comfort, and they can even provide a safe sounding board for secrets and feelings that children don’t share with adults. Animals provide oppor- tunities for children to hone their social skills, practice caregiving and nurturing, and even to carefully explore issues of power and vulnerability. Clearly, animals are important, and most adults recog- nize this. Children seem to know intuitively that different animals have different mannerisms and behav­ior, and require different treatment to evoke a response. Not only do animals ignite cognitive curiosity, but they also evoke emotional responses in children. Just think about the de- light a child shows upon seeing a chipmunk or a family of ducklings paddling across a pond, or the sheer joy she expresses when a colorful butterfly flits past. A few wasps approaching a group of preschoolers having a picnic may elicit screams and panic. Present that same group of chil- dren with a fluffy white puppy, and the explosion of delight will be almost palpable. Many adults have anecdotal knowledge of the benefits that animals offer to children, or they seem to recognize intuitively the deep value in pro- viding children with experiences involving animals. Perhaps these adults know from years of experience working with young children that animals are precious, exciting, and captivating for young children. Some educators are unable to articulate why they know animals are important for young children, but they “just know” that they are. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL