Why Children Love Animals

By on May 6, 2015

Anyone who has ever seen a child at the zoo no doubt remembers the unbridled enthusiasm and uninhibited curiosity towards the animals. However, what adults sometimes don’t realize is a visit to the zoo or an encounter with a dog in the park is much more than just a joyful moment for a child, it is a learning experience.

Children are naturally drawn to animals and even linguists have studied the phenomenon of this fascination. Over one-third of the average child’s earliest vocabulary is comprised of the names of animals, with “dog, cat” and “bunny” at the top of the list.

“Why children love animals so much?” is not an easy question to answer. Perhaps it is because children are first exposed to animals at such a young age, as in children’s books, TV shows and movies; or maybe so many children’s stories feature animals because children have a natural fascination with fuzzy creatures. Similarly, like their stories, children are given stuffed animals to play with at a very young age.

Koala BearSmall children have a natural urge to touch and talk to animals, and the fascination goes much deeper than mere curiosity. Most psychologists believe the reason children love animals is humans have a natural fascination with nature and most people, even in adulthood, show a great deal of compassion towards animals, with well over 50 percent of all households having pets.

Whether real or stuffed, children often claim they can converse with animals. Child psychologists believe this is part of a child’s normal maturation process of learning how to communicate, develop emotional connections, such as empathy, and respond to the needs of others. Parents are sometimes concerned when their child tries to give the family pet human qualities, called anthropomorphizing, but this is simply how children develop the skills that allow them to build relationships. This is because the word of animals is an instinctive place for children to explore, because it is so tangible.

Another reason why psychologists believe children are so fascinated with animals is children have an innate desire to make sense of their ever-expanding world. As their brains develop children are constantly sorting, organizing and categorizing everything they come into contact with. Because animals are living breathing creatures, and so different from people, a child has a need to find a place where animals fit into their developing narrative, and why a trip to the zoo is perfect learning environment for children.

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