Having kids and animals in the same environment can be a wonderful thing, but it also exposes both children and pets to possible harm. Animals may misinterpret children’s actions, and very young individuals may have a tendency to be rowdy and not know property safety measures.
Around 2.2 million children get bitten by dogs in the United States every year. Although the number of cat bites is lower at less than half a million, the rate of infection is higher at up to 50%. According to collected data from Medscape, most fatal bites happen to children because of their smaller bodies and the usual injuries affecting the neck and head region.
These numbers may be scary for parents to know, but the best way to avoid a bad outcome is through education. If you teach your kids the right way to handle pets, it reduces the chances of them getting bitten or scratched. Here are five practical yet fun lessons to show your kids how to play safe with animals.
Going to the Zoo
A good way to introduce your child to animals while staying at a safe distance is by visiting a zoo. It’s an easy yet engaging way for them to see how different animals behave. They also get to observe the proper way to handle animals as they see zoo keepers interact with the animals.
There are many ethical zoos like the Woodland Park Zoo and San Diego Zoo that focus on caring for animals and preserving natural habitats. These offer a lot of exploration and teach your kids the rules of engaging with animals. A great zoo visit may even spark interest in your children for the environment and animal care.
Visiting Petting Farms
According to Zocdoc, it’s important to teach your kids how to understand animal body language and the importance of hygiene after direct interactions. Your children need to wash their hands after feeding or playing with animals and make sure they are mindful of the temperament of the animal they are interacting with.
What better way to teach this firsthand than by going to a petting zoo or farm? Here, your children will get up close and personal with different animals and you can teach them how to gently pet and feed them. The good thing about a petting farm is that, while these animals may be unfamiliar, they are usually docile and used to human interaction. It’s a good chance for your kids to be outdoors and have a safe way to learn about pet safety.
Having Guided Play Time
One of the simplest yet best ways to help your kids play with animals in a safe way is to simply be there and play with them. Children may feel more comfortable when their parents are nearby, and you get to supervise the whole interaction. During this time, you can join in the playtime while teaching the general do’s and don’ts when it comes to animals.
You may even want to use animal toys so that you can engage with your cat or dog while having it be preoccupied with something else. Even a simple Kraft paper bag can be a toy for an energetic kitten. If you are playing with someone else’s pet, it’s also a chance to teach your child about asking permission from other pet owners.
Providing Fun Educational References
In this day and age, you have the advantage of teaching your kids how to play safe with animals even when there aren’t any animals around. There are plenty of storybooks, shows, and cartoons available to teach your children basic safety measures and being kind to animals. Because they’re specifically geared toward kids, you won’t have to worry about your child being disinterested or distracted.
Books like How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear are engaging stories to start with. You’re not even limited to new content, either. Some old but gold references include Wild Kratts and Lamb Chop’s Play-Along.
Joining Pet Workshops
There are tons of pet workshops that actively educate young children on how to be good pet owners. They get to interact with animals, do tons of activities, and play with other kids in the process.
Not only is this a super fun way for your child to play with animals and learn how to do it carefully, but it’s also a chance to do so without the presence of screens. About 81% of parents with kids aged 3 to 4 find that their child spends a lot of time on YouTube, so it’s worth finding ways to engage them in real-life activities like playing with pets and other kids.