The real reason kids adore animals so much

Experts are just starting to realize the special relationship between kids and animals which could have huge insights for child psychology.

While there is already existing evidence that spending time with animals can increase a child’s self esteem — additionally animals can help kids how to interact socially and promote a kid’s cognitive development.

While being a little kid has its perks – it can also be frustrating as you are still learning words and sometimes it is very hard to communicate.

Image via photo by Sgt. Valerie Eppler

Animals can serve as a barrier to understand an unspoken language.

When she first became a parent, Barabara J. King – a professor who has spent years studying animal emotions – saw firsthand how animals connect kids to the world.

Her daughter Sarah, who is 25 years old, was a headstrong as a toddler.

The intensity led to many tears and confusion — King revealing that Sarah was too little to do what she wanted to do or say.

But Sarah held a special place in her heart for Swirl, the family’s cat.

“[H]aving Swirl nearby helped Sarah moderate her moods,” King writes. “Being with a nonverbal (meowing!) creature may induce in a child a watchfulness, an ability to pick up on body-language cues, and a growing recognition that we human beings have a responsibility beyond just ourselves.”

Image via Jess Westermann/WOTNVR

King believes that Swirl played a part in shaping Sarah’s childhood – saying that relationships with animals are important for each and every kid.

“I think that encouraging children’s attunement and kindness to animals from a very young age is absolutely urgent,” King told The Dodo, “and at the same time, a fantastic way to guide our children towards joyful experiences.”

Being around animals can also help children gain self-esteem as well as empathy for others.

For example, two-year-old Riley is a little boy whose mother, Miriam Stein Battles, fosters kittens for West Orange Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return.

“He’s been around kittens since the age of 5 months,” Battles told The Dodo. 

Image via Miriam Stein Battles

Battles recalls when Riley first showed a real interest in the kittens.

“He was about 6 months old and we had two 3-month-old kittens that usually sat by the window together. He was having a bottle and kept looking over at the one kitten by the window and I couldn’t figure out why he was so distracted,” Battles said. “Finally, the second kitten joined her brother by the window and Riley saw her, smiled, and then concentrated on his bottle. I realized he had been wondering where the second kitten was.”

And since then, Riley has learned how to hold the foster kittens and even help his mom with them. And while hey cannot do most of things adults can do yet, he is playing a huge part in the lives of these little animals as they grow up and find forever homes.

Image via Miriam Stein Battles