Pets and toddlers can be a crazy mix, dangerous even! It’s very important that you take measures to teach your little darlings to respect animals and be safe with them. The following tips can help show you how.
1. Demonstrate the proper approach and good handling. Show your child how to carefully get close to an animal without spooking it. Animals have lightning fast reactions and can very quickly snap or scratch. Emphasize the importance of going slowly and speaking kindly and of being gentle with little creatures.
2. Watch your toddler closely. Be sure little hands don’t squeeze too tightly or that your child doesn’t put their face too close to sharp teeth and claws. Observe all interactions and tell your child when they are doing things right as well as when they’re wrong.
3. Don’t leave the two alone. Even if you trust the animal and think your toddler may be doing just fine, walking away for even a moment can lead to dangerous consequences. Keep a watchful eye on them at all times until your child reaches the stage of development where they are making smart decisions all on their own.
4. Use story telling to teach respect and show examples. Reading stories to your little one will help them to learn how to exercise caution as well as show respect and be caring. Use books with pictures that clearly show the attention one should give to an animal and all the precautions that should be taken. Opt for stories about real-life animals like cats, dogs and hamsters as opposed to ones with made-up creatures.
5. Avoid cartoons, movies or games that depict animal cruelty. We as adults have basically become oblivious to the amount of violence and mistreatment of animals in various mediums, but they can have a huge impact on the mind of a child. Make sure your toddler doesn’t see a character dragging a puppy on a leash or bopping him off the head with a book, for example. Since they are prone to imitating, your child may think the actions are harmless and try to duplicate what they see on the screen.
6. Train any animal that will become a part of your family well. Getting that first puppy is an exciting time, however; much needs to be done in the way of guiding its behavior. Take the time to teach a new dog in the house to respect people and not jump, nip or even abuse inanimate objects either, as your child may follow suit. Cats may be more independent, but they can also be discouraged from scratching, pouncing and other behaviors in very humane and effective ways.
Your toddler should happily co-exist with the family pet or any other animal they come in contact with. With a lot of patience and persistence, any child can learn safe and fun ways to play and interact with the wild world of animals. Use the above tips to make it a very enriching experience and instill good habits that should last a lifetime.