Petting zoos are one of the most well-established and uplifting forms of entertainment available for children of all ages, and are an excellent low-tech way to spend a family day out in the otherwise non-stop, ever-digital world we all seem to increasingly inhabit day by day.
Petting zoos take a variety of forms, ranging from small, family-run operations centred around specific, slightly-exotic creatures such as alpacas and ostriches, to fully fledged activity centres for kids, such as Willows Activity Farm, which offers an array of games and activities along with the petting zoo component.
But if you’re not convinced and haven’t yet decided that you absolutely must take your children out to a petting zoo at the nearest possible opportunity, here are some potential benefits that might sway you.
It can help your child to develop courage
This may not seem like the most immediately obvious point, if you think of children petting Guinea pigs, but it is in fact the case that animals by and large can be pretty intimidating to children, and that petting zoos can provide a safe environment in which they can confront and overcome those fears.
The development of courage is fundamentally important to children, to a degree that can scarcely be overstated. The world is dangerous, and there are things in it that can be deeply threatening and harmful, but which must nonetheless be overcome.
Teaching your child that everything is safe would certainly be reckless in the extreme, but teaching them that they have the ability to successfully stand up to their fears and overcome them is invaluable. And, if you’ve never seen a child trying to feed a horse or billy goat before, you might be surprised by just how daunting these feats can seem — and how proud a child can feel after accomplishing them.
It can help your child develop compassion
Compassion is another one of those essential life skills that have a tremendous implications for the whole of a person’s life, including, of course, all of their social interactions with other people.
A great way to help develop your child’s sense of compassion and the scope of that emotion, is to put them in a context where they interact with animals of differing temperaments.
Having your child feed and pet rabbits and guinea pigs will give them insights on the nurturing element of compassion. Having them interact with more powerful and assertive animals will provide a balanced view of the same.
It offers a direct and engaging learning experience
A key, defining feature of childhood is that children are constantly pursuing knowledge in all its forms, and doing everything in their power to experience and understand the nuances of the world.
While some of this knowledge will come from books, children’s TV shows and so on, putting your children in environments where they can learn directly, using all of their senses at once, is one of the key methods of ensuring productive learning.
A petting zoo provides opportunities for learning in vivid detail, with sight, sound, hearing, and touch all playing their part.
*This is a collaborative post.