Saturday, October 1, 2011

Animal Attraction: Part 1

Animal Attraction
An article from tells why kids adore animals and what they can learn from all creatures, great and small.
By Gail F. Melson Ph.D

A whirling 4 year old comes to a screeching halt, transfixed by the fish swimming lazily around an aquarium in the pediatrician's waiting room. A 6 year old, home from school, showers the family dog with hugs and kisses before saying hi to Mom. A 10 year old chooses her gerbil, Misty, as the subject of her school essay, "My Best Friend."

Children are fascinated by animals. Whether it's a bunny in a picture book, a nature show crocodile, a horse on the farm, or a monkey in the zoo, our kids can't get enough of the furry - and even the scaly and slithery - creatures that share our planet. And when it comes to the creatures that share our homes, the fascination is even more intense. The bond that develops between a child and his pet is deep and can be every bit as authentic as the emotional ties to a parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend.

What's behind this fascination? One theory, biophelia, argues that our attraction to animals is hard-wired in our brains. In fact, evidence suggests that for as long as we humans have been walking the earth, we have had pets by our side. Whatever the reason, research shows that kids reap rich rewards from interacting with animals. A pet can provide affection, counteract loneliness, and help relieve stress. Feeding the classroom turtle or guinea pig can teach responsibility and care. Visiting a drive-through safari or simply watching the squirrels in the park gives children a chance to learn about habitats and survival. In short, animals provide one of the best learning tools in your child's life.

Tomorrow Gail talks about lessons from a fish and pet opportunities, so be sure to come back!


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