WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM
Why Are Children So Interested In Animals, Anyway?
at interaction. A positive response from an animal encourages connection
by building children’s confidence in processing and responding to the com-
munication of another.
It’s All about Me
Many children respond to an animal’s nonverbal or verbal communication
with a natural assumption that the animal is speaking or communicating
directly with him. This is part of why children re-
spond with such excitement when an animal makes
noise. If Noah, a preschooler, greets the classroom
bird with a cheerful “Hello!” and the bird squawks
in response, it can be very exciting indeed! Or when
a dog barks excitedly as a child tosses a ball in the
backyard, it can feel to the child as though “the dog is
playing with me!” In fact, many animal behaviorists
and pet owners alike would argue that indeed the
dog is responding to the child with pure excitement
and joy, much as a human friend would do.
Many children may speak to household or class-
room pets in a quiet whisper, telling it their secrets or
troubles of the day. Even adults know that animals
are great listeners. They accept without question or
judgment the words that we say and the feelings that we share. We can talk
to our pets and tell them things we can’t tell anyone else. Children know this,
too. Children may eagerly search out a household pet at the end of the day,
telling the cat how things have gone at a playdate, or what they did at school.
Many a curious parent has listened in to these conversations, knowing the
child will likely tell the cat more than she’d tell her mom. In the classroom,
a child may whisper secret wishes or hopes for the day to a pet turtle, who
seems to sit patiently in her tank while the child speaks.
Young children assume that animals can hear and understand them
when they are speaking, and often speak to animals in a way similar to the
way they speak to babies. The fact that children consistently use this “special
speech” to speak to animals indicates a belief that animals relate to language
and vocabulary in the same way that children and adults do. Note that
children generally do not talk to furniture or inanimate objects, but they