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Teaching Kids to Be Kind to Animals

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Did you know that butterflies taste food with their feet? Or that an eagle's nest weighs more than a refrigerator? Amazing facts like these from National Geographic Kids magazine show your children that all animals--family pets and wild animals--deserve to be respected and appreciated. May 2-8 is Be Kind to Animals week, and NG KIDS has a challenge for your child! We're asking kiddos to break away from TV or video games and spend more time with their pets instead.

Surveys Show

Kids love animals. In an April 2010 survey of 1,363 NG KIDS readers, we found that 77 percent of them have a pet at home. Although dogs (63 percent) and cats (45 percent) are the most popular pets, our readers also have hermit crabs, rabbits, fish, rats, hamsters, snails, geckos, and, um, centipedes. One NG KIDS reader shared with us the most unique pet of all. "I have a pet donkey," the reader wrote. "MY BROTHER!"

Kind kids grow up to be kind adults, so we need to teach our children about the importance of being considerate to animals while they're young. Encourage your kids to give Fido and Fluffy a little TLC. There are many fun things we can suggest you do as a family in observance of Be Kind to Animals week.

Pamper Your Pet

It turns out that kids are already doing a pretty good job of loving their pets. Pets seem to be a true member of readers' families. NG KIDS readers told us their favorite things to do with a pet are playing with it (78 percent), cuddling with it (66 percent), and even celebrating its birthday (62 percent). Some kids even buy their pet a birthday card!

When it comes to showing affection for your pet, why not kick it up a notch this week. Now, I'm not saying you have to buy Lassie a four-poster doggie bed or get her a pet-icure, but kids can pamper the family pet in inexpensive ways like these.

Let your cat have the run of the house--literally--by building an easy kitty condo or watch your pooch curl up on a homemade dog pillow. Arts and crafts not your thing? Make your pet a treat it'll be sure to drool over.

Pampering your furry friend doesn't mean spending your way into the doghouse. Spoiling pets with loads of hugs, baths, and belly rubs doesn't cost a thing. It's true that the best things in life are free--and that goes for your pet, too.

Make a Difference

We know that kids are already helping with pet-care responsibilities at home. Eighty-five percent of NG KIDS pet owners help with feeding, 47 percent groom their pets, and 49 percent of them go to the vet with their animals. So why not encourage kids to care for homeless, abused, or neglected animals, too?

Volunteer with your child at a local animal shelter. By walking dogs, cleaning cages, or playing fetch, your child will learn the importance of responsible pet ownership and animal protection, and they'll also see that every animal deserves love and kindness.

Plus, being surrounded by wagging tails and contented purrs isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Take a Lesson from Pets

What's the best part of owning a pet? According to NG KIDS readers, it's that "My pet gives me lots of love" and "My pet makes me feel good when I feel sad." This is probably because animals don't judge or criticize. They don't laugh at you. They don't say mean things. They don't hold a grudge. They're just there to offer you a big, sloppy kiss or some purr-filled cuddling at the end of a busy day.

So let's learn from our four-legged, two-legged, finned, and slithering friends, and teach our kids to treat their pets as their pets treat them.

Appreciate ALL Animals

Teach your kids how extraordinary all animals are. Plant a hummingbird garden in your backyard. Go on a hike and jot down the size, color, and sound of each animal your family sees in a notebook. Or just visit a zoo or aquarium. No time to get out and about? No problem. Introduce your kids to awesome animals through NG KIDS magazine or online.

No matter how you choose to take part in Be Kind to Animals week, challenge your family to keep it going beyond just seven days and show compassion to animals all year long.

A word of caution: Be sure to remind your children that whether they're in the backyard, on the beach, or in the woods, it's important to help wildlife stay, well, wild. Observe animals from a distance.