We believe hands-on activities are the best way to learn about animals and to teach respect for living things. Regular activities here at the nursery include hatching our own chicks and watching caterpillars turn into butterflies, which the children love! We also organise regular outings so that the children can learn about the importance of nature and the environment.
The children always have a wonderful time when the owners of a local farm bring in some of their small farm animals to us. The children get to experience a far wider range of creatures, and ones that wouldn’t normally be kept as family pets such as piglets and goats.
Read on to discover the five main benefits that we have found animals provide for our children’s development:
Toddlers and pre-schoolers discover all about their world through seeing, hearing and touching. Stroking and interacting with animals at close proximity teaches children how various textures feel, for example the wiry texture of a sheep or the soft fur of a rabbit. Farm animals provide the perfect opportunity to develop listening skills too. The various animal noises will help children identify the animals’ unique sounds.
Motor Skill Development
Motor skills are constantly being developed throughout a preschooler’s life. Motor skills are simply anything that uses their muscles. Gross motor skills involve large movements such as running or climbing, and fine motor skills are small movements such as holding a brush to groom an animal, or picking grass or offering carrots to feed them.
This is the process by which a toddler or preschooler learns to understand and communicate. Although the animals cannot talk back, children love to chat away to them and perhaps because they can’t respond, the children fill the silence happily with even more chatter. Spending time with animals is great for learning lots of new words too – like whiskers, hoof and snout. Children will usually return home at the end of the day and chatter away to the family about the animals they saw and interacted with that day.
Young children begin to develop the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and this includes animals too! When a child is asked questions such as, “Do you think the sheep likes being stroked?” and “Do you think the rabbit is hungry?” these can help children to consider the animals’ feelings.
Preschool children conjure up storybook settings for farm animals, which is a great starting point for learning that the soft, feathery free-range hens produce eggs and that the cows out grazing in the field produce milk. When the farm animals come to visit, our children can even have a go at ‘milking’ a wooden cow, which is always great fun and educational too!
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