WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM
Why Are Children So Interested In Animals, Anyway?
called attunement, and it is a feeling that children enjoy in many of their
interactions with animals. For example, on Monday morning, Simone tells
the classroom goldfish about her busy weekend, and she observes the fish
approaching the surface of the water, expecting a few flakes of food. Simone
sees the fish’s behavior as a direct response to her chatter and presence. This
leads her to believe that the fish must be interested in what she is saying.
When asked, most children will report that an animal’s common everyday
behaviors are directed at the child herself, indicating that the child perceives
the animal as communicating directly with the child.
Vulnerability In a child’s world, adults rule. Adults make most of the decisions. They
are the source of love, food, space, shelter, and the other basic elements
of survival, pleasure, and comfort. Animals are the only living creatures
that children can dominate. Although in our culture we often use the term
dominate in a somewhat negative tone, I use the word here simply to mean
“to have more power than.” This is neither good
nor bad, it simply is. When a child is with an an-
imal, she is in charge, if only for a while. When
encountering small animals, such as household
or classroom pets, children can be the decision
makers (how much or when to feed you, whether
or not I will pet you, where I will set you down).
Even simply feeding an animal at a petting zoo
can elicit some of the same feelings of power, and
in many cases, it’s the earliest memory children
have of connecting with animals. Of course, if you
ask a child what’s special about that experience, he
will say things like “the horse came so close I could
smell it,” or he may describe the light touch of the
bird’s beak in the palm of his hand. These more
subtle qualities of caring can also contribute to
the specialness and vulnerability of the moment.
The power of caring for an animal and play-
ing a role in the animal’s well-being can be very
meaningful for a young child. Especially in their