How to Teach Animal Appreciation

Our world is full of wonderful and amazing creatures with awesome abilities! Help your kids learn how to appreciate what even the smallest critters have to offer, and teach them why all animals deserve respect. Mindfulness towards animals can instill larger values of compassion and kindness that will last a lifetime!

Here are some activities and ideas to get you started:1

Read All About It! An endless number of kids’ books feature animals as the main character, and highlight animals’ unique characteristics or heroic qualities that will inspire your kids to see the special things animals have to offer! Some great examples include Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library, The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, and Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. And while you’re reading, don’t forget to also browse the hundreds of Q&As in whyzz Animals, with topics from ants to zebras!

Meet and Greet. Animal programs on TV might spark your kids’ interest, but up the ante by bringing them face-to-face with the real thing and planning family activities involving animals. Find out if there are any aquariums, animal sanctuaries, or Audubon parks in your area. And don’t forget the pure outdoors; even a hike on a local trail can come with plenty of animal-watching opportunities. Bring along a book so you can learn about the animals you see, and teach your kids about how to stay on marked paths and collect their garbage to respect the animals’ habitats.

Visit a Shelter. Visiting a shelter to play with the pets and help the staff is a good deed. Animal shelters and rescue services are almost always in need of happy faces and loving friends. Teach your kids about the right way to slowly approach a new animal, and how to pet gently. The ASPCA’s website offers a database of shelters by zipcode, so you can call around and inquire about volunteering.

Teach about humanity. It might sound like a big topic, but there are lots of resources for talking to kids about what it means to be humane! The websites of the American Humane Association, TeachKind, and the Humane Society of the United States all offer free downloadable lessons and activities for kids. Even just one afternoon learning together can teach major, memorable ideas!

Have a Pet Party. Organize a “party” with your kids and their friends to celebrate pets and animals! Ask each family to bring something to donate to a local shelter, like some pet food or a toy. Serve animal-themed foods, like “kibbles” (cereal or snack mix), animal crackers, hot dogs, or sandwiches cut with special cookie-cutter shapes like paws. Play pin-the-tail-on-the puppy (or goldfish or orangutan or whatever animal you choose!) and show an animal movie that features the love and heroism of a furry friend!