What is the best way for building children’s confidence with animals?

My daughter is an animal lover. She points to them, talks to them, shouts ‘ca’ all of the time. (that’s Cat in toddler talk by the way). But she rarely touches one. So how do I extend her interest in animals?

Building Children's Confidence
Isla is not a fan of ‘The Giant Tortoise’

We don’t have any pets at home, so perhaps this isn’t a surprise. She’s not been exposed to animals in the way my niece has, with a dog at home. But I worry about this. Access to, exposure to, engagement with animals is really important if she is not to be sacred of them in the future.

But maybe this is me putting my expectations on her.

See I love animals. I’m even a qualified Game Ranger. Shout if you’d like to book me for a safari tour 🙂

But then they were always part of my life growing up. I had a dog, a rabbit, goldfish – so no farm, but surrounded by enough animals to feel comfortable and at home with them.

And I’m fascinated by them too. I think they are quite extraordinary things. My Nan is also a great animal lover – she definitely makes up one of the stats watching David Attenborough close up with a bear! And I think Isla sees that too – she sees the potential love and affection in animals and she’s utterly curious about them.

She just doesn’t want to get too close.

My sister and Mum joined her on a nursery visit to Old Macdonalds Farm a few weeks ago, which was run as a way of building children’s confidence around animas. When she was asked if she wanted to go and see the animals, the resounding answer was no! When I looked at some of the pictures, I understood why. The owl was nearly as big as her and the tortoise came up to her stomach.

Ok, not quite true – but they were big animals and I can see how for a little person they were quite overwhelming.

Building Children's Confidence
Owl 1: Isla 0 !

We’re helping our neighbours at the moment by feeding their cats whilst they’re on holiday. They have 2 cats and a kitten. I’ve taken Isla over to see them, but her arms flail and she wants to be picked up straight away, but simultaneously wants to get down to stroke them!

Building Children's Confidence
To stroke the cat or not?

I suppose it’s all part of her development process and learning more about her world.

If she’s exposed to animals for longer, I think she relaxes and enjoys their company much more. I think this is probably true of all children’s interest in animals.

We visited friends in Cornwall a month or so ago and this definitely proved to be true. The dogs are a Boxer and a Staffie. Both rescue dogs, who are just gorgeous. But they genuinely are just as big as her and could push her over with a swish of the tail and did this several times. By the end of the 3rd day though, they had all got used to each other’s company and were great friends.

Building Children's Confidence
The dogs and Isla in the naughty corner

Although they look as though they are in the naughty corner in this photo!

I suppose all of this analysis leads me to realise that she may end up not liking animals at all. Or that perhaps it is just that building children’s confidence up around animals may take time. But the more I can do to help her not feel intimated by them, the better. She needs to know the dangers of some animals, but also appreciate their beauty and place in world.

Or I just need to buy a puppy!