SPCA’s vision is to inspire a kinder, more compassionate Aotearoa for animals and people by providing free and engaging online animal welfare themed teaching and learning resources. SPCA’s Kids’ Portal is a fun and interactive learning platform for children and it is one of the key components SPCA developed to help realise their vision.
Children learn best through meaningful, on-going experiences that are shared and encouraged between the home, school or education setting, and within their wider whānau and community.
This is why SPCA developed a diverse range of free, online education resources, to ensure every young learner, parent or guardian, and New Zealand teacher can access resources that encourage children's exploration and the development of knowledge, skills, and understandings needed to create feelings of empathy, compassion, respect and justice for the lives of all living things.
There is a lot of advice and research out there that suggests having a companion animal is a great way to teach children compassion and responsibility. However, the presence of animals in a home alone does not automatically make children more empathetic. Click on the content below to learn more.
Below you will find SPCA’s series of Learning at Home Booklets. These are a collection of fun, animal-related activities for children to enjoy at home.
There are three sets of booklets - each set consists of similar activities but become progressively more challenging. Set 1 is designed for children 6 years and under, Set 2 for children aged 6 to 9 years and Set 3 for children aged 9 and up. The age brackets are a guide; please select the set that will be the best challenge for your child.
SPCA's Education Webinars, intended for primary and intermediate students, are a great way for akonga to learn all about animal welfare, responsible animal guardianship, and the role SPCA plays in our communities.
Children learn a lot through watching, listening, thinking and copying what their parents and caregivers do. So naturally, if a child is consistently exposed to responsible animal guardianship (pet ownership) practice and empathetic treatment of living things, it is highly likely that child will begin to practice those same behaviours. These behaviours are likely to become instinctive and that child’s “norm”.
Unfortunately the same can be said when a child is regularly exposed to irresponsible and undesirable animal interactions.
The way that animals are treated by a family can strongly influence whether or not the children within the home learn to treat living beings with dignity and respect. For example, if a family’s dog is left chained in the backyard all day, every day with no shelter or exercise, or a rabbit is kept alone in a small cage in the backyard, a child exposed to this practice may learn to believe that it is ok to disregard the needs of others, rather than have consideration for them.
When children see parents or an adult making an effort to care for those who cannot care for themselves, they learn that this is how to behave. Model responsible animal guardianship (pet ownership) for your children, so that they will learn that animals are sentient beings with their own thoughts, feelings, wants and needs.
Show your children that animals are not toys or objects for them to use and then disregard when the novelty has worn off. Modelling this type of empathy and compassion will give your children the ability to consider the thoughts and feelings of others and act accordingly.
From a very young age, most children are surrounded by animals in some shape or form. Many children have animal themed clothing, bedding, toys and stuffed animals. We often see young children cuddling, naming, talking to, and playing with their animal toys. Walking into most early childhood centres, you will witness children learning their alphabet and practising their counting with animal pictures and library corner shelves filled with animal themed picture books.
Throughout primary and intermediate school, outings with friends, family or class groups will often include visiting animals at the zoo, birds in a park, and fish in an aquarium or fishpond. Children will watch animals on television and starring in blockbuster movies. It is therefore not surprising that from an early age, children have a fascination with all kinds of furry friends. With a fascination of animals, children usually want to interact with them, eager to hug and squeeze them.
Though this is often a child’s way of expressing affection, unfortunately this kind of attention is often less than empathetic since the needs of the animals are being disregarded. Most animals do not enjoy being chased, grabbed or
pulled by young children who want to cuddle with them. It might seem harmless for small children to poke and prod animals, since they really cannot do them any major physical harm, but remember numerous studies have shown that the way people treat animals is closely related to the way they treat people.
Tip for Parents/Guardians
Discourage your children from chasing, grabbing, pulling or poking animals. A child who holds onto a struggling animal is not learning to consider and respect the needs of other living beings. Instead, encourage pro-social behaviours such as sharing, compromise and cooperation.
When positive, empathetic interactions are encouraged and modelled by adults, children begin to better understand and identify with the animal’s emotions and learn how to take care and responsibility for the animal. Actively helping in the caring of family companion animals (pets) can help children extend care to other human beings.
Research studies have shown that a child’s emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of future social and occupational success than traditional I.Q. scores. As they grow up, children who have learned empathy and compassion are more likely to become trustworthy friends, valued co-workers, and respected members of their community.
Tip for Parents/Guardians: