WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM
20 chapter 2
early years, children are busy trying to understand how they are capable and
competent. Giving children the opportunity to participate in meaningful
caring activities for a vulnerable creature can build tremendous confidence.
Speaking with animals offers children a freedom that is not always felt
when speaking to adults. Adults who are concerned with teaching and
helping children develop their language skills can seem more focused on
the mechanics of what the child is saying than the child’s message. Or some
well-meaning adults try to help children “talk through” their problems or
offer to help a child process his feelings. For chil-
dren trying to navigate the already complex world
of adult communication, these added pressures can
discourage their speaking comfortably and freely.
In contrast, animals listen without question,
without demand. They hear what a child has to say
and don’t press her to say anything more. The family
dog doesn’t ask a child to elaborate, reason, justify,
apologize, or explain. He just listens. This can be
very freeing for a child. Children know that they can
tell a pet anything and it will be a safe secret. No mat-
ter how silly or insignificant a child’s feelings may
seem, a receptive pet will never laugh, be dismissive,
or minimize that child for having those feelings. And
isn’t this why we adults also talk to animals?
Animals inhabit a world not created by adults,
and this affords children a certain freedom as well.
Children are free to playact with animals, adapting
their behavior and habits. Some very tolerant pets
will allow themselves to be involved in children’s
play, which can be thrilling and gratifying for young children. Young chil-
dren may become deeply immersed in play involving animals: they may
include the family cat as a member of the pretend “camping trip” happening
in the living room, or they may have the toy people “visit” the classroom
parakeet in her cage. The animal may have a special or “starring role” in the
story, and the child feels free to include it.