Having animals in the ECE environment can be hugely beneficial for children for several reasons. The companionship the animals offer, the opportunity for children to learn to nurture and care for another creature, learning to be responsible and follow instructions about how to behave around animals are some of the more well-known benefits. Some of the lesser known benefits are some of the most powerful.
For some children, navigating the murky waters of human relationships is really challenging. There are so many rules to learn, so many subtle cues, and so many ways to get things wrong and be excluded from the group. Animals are much more simple creatures! There are no complex social rules to try to learn and they typically accept us unconditionally. Animals are usually very consistent with their behaviour and are extremely sensitive to our emotions – this makes it easier for children who struggle with social engagement with other children to develop their social skills in a more controlled way.
For another group of children, it's not a misunderstanding of social rules that makes interacting with other humans hard, it's the fact that their early lives have been full of challenging experiences with adults that have wired their brains to experience other people as threatening. These children find it exceptionally difficult to make friends and they can be very challenging for teachers; this is because they typically do not experience interactions with other people as rewarding. For these children, a beautiful way to start to re-wire the part of their brain responsible for relationships and reward is by using animals. Relationships with animals give children a lot more control than they would typically have in a relationship with another human (child or adult), this allows them to experience a relationship without their stress responses (fight or flight) activating. Child-animal relationships can help children re-learn the rewarding nature of relationships. Learning to have a relationship with an animal can act as a steppingstone to having successful relationships with other humans.
The opportunity for the children at Kids Count to have daily interactions with animals is extremely valuable. The therapeutic potential of these relationships is immense, especially for our children who are struggling with relationships.
Today the children enjoyed some time in the farm looking for the chicken eggs with Matua James.
Matua James showed the children where the chickens lay their eggs and how we look after the chickens giving them fresh water each day.
The children really enjoyed exploring the farm today we cannot wait to visit the chickens in the farm tomorrow.