Nearly every preschooler is drawn to animals. They love the soft fur of their pets at home and the silly sounds made by farm critters on cartoons. A good preschool program will use your little one's fascination with animals to teach life skills and add interest to lessons through animal-related activities.
Here are some of the reasons why exposure to animals is beneficial to your preschooler and some animal-related activities a good preschool may offer to young students.
Animals help kids adjust to daily life, dander and danger
Studies have confirmed that having a pet in the home at a young age can be beneficial to the immune response and the respiratory system. Early exposure to cats and dogs appears to protect kids from later illness. But pets also help kids with reading and self-esteem, while interaction with animal companions builds empathy.
Taking children out into nature to observe frogs, fish, birds, insects and small mammals teaches preschoolers about the ecosystem and how humans and animals share resources. Early lessons about safety in nature can also help keep very young children from touching harmful animals when hiking or camping with family.
Although very young children can't take full responsibility for pets, helping care for pets at home and preschool helps teach responsibility and how to behave safely during an animal's feeding routine. Some children have intense fears about animals. Careful, controlled and guided exposure to animals by a trusted teacher can help these little ones overcome their fears, which is an important lesson for all young students.
Animal programs in preschool
Most preschoolers have purely social interactions with their cats and dogs, so preschool is a great place to teach little ones how to pet and hold animals the correct way. Manners with humans and animals should be covered in units on proper social skills, and safe behavior around strange pets should also be part of the curriculum.
A good preschool will provide some opportunity for hands-on animal learning during the year, whether that consists of class trips to the aquarium with exhibits children may touch or taking nature walks to observe the development of tadpoles. Learning about where milk, eggs and cheese come from helps children appreciate farm animals and discover how their favorite foods are produced, so field trips to local farms are also ideal learning adventures for preschoolers.
Class pets or animals are also a good sign that a preschool teaches about caring for the world's creatures. Whether kids are watching an egg develop and hatch or feeding a fish, they are learning about science, life cycles and caring for living things outside of themselves.
Enroll your child in a preschool that features some study of animals and nature. Most Montessori programs will cover animal topics and sustainability, but feel free to ask the director of any prospective preschool, like North End Montessori School, about the ways that animals are included in their lesson plans and activities.