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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Why Are Children So Interested In Animals, Anyway? categorizing, and listing things. Some children can recite with zeal lists of species belonging to certain orders or families, such as the young kin- dergartner I met who knew all the North American frog species’ names by heart. Other children love dinosaurs and recall names of dinosaur species, sizes, habitat preferences, and food choices. Many parents and teachers alike are amazed by children’s abilities to recall and amass knowledge about certain groups of animals or an exclusive favorite species. There are seemingly unlimited opportunities for children to create categories and group animals. Tell a child with a huge collection of stuffed animals to put all the “sea creatures” together in a basket, and the basket quickly fills with stuffed fish, dolphins, whales, and seals. The challenging and fun cognitive exercise of sorting and categorizing animal varieties encourages many children’s love of animals. It also strengthens children’s cognitive abilities to sort, order, classify, and group—important and fundamental scientific and mathematical thinking skills. Affection One reason children feel so deeply connected to some companion animals is that they share a common language for showing affection. While we use the term affect to refer to an animal’s mood or emotional state, we use affection to refer to fondness or positive feelings for another. Affection in early child- hood is associated with a number of physical behaviors, including cuddling, seeking proximity to those we love, making pleasant vocalizations, and touching. These are the same ways that many pets seek and show affection to their owners. When children are asked to describe how their pets show affection toward them, many of them cite these behaviors, as well as tail wagging, purring, jumping up, and following the child. Children and many animals demonstrate affection through touching, holding close, speaking soft words, and cuddling. Thus, when children and animals want to show affection for each other, they have a common language in which to do so. Communication The unique communication of animals also appeals to children. Animals use a variety of means to communicate, most of it nonverbal. In some cases, COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 15