How can I Teach Children to be Kind to Animals?

K T Solis

Preschool and early primary teachers can teach children to be kind to animals by using a well-known nursery rhyme. The nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb was written in the 19th century and contains a valuable lesson for all children, the importance of being kind to animals. The simple rhyme is the ideal way to teach children an importance lesson they can carry with them throughout their lives.

Stories about animals can help children learn to be kinder.
Stories about animals can help children learn to be kinder.

Teachers can use a copy of the rhyme in picture-book form to illustrate this lesson for students. An excellent version of the story is a book published in 1989 with photographs by Bruce McMillan. The book features contemporary photos of a young African-American girl caring for her lamb.

Children can draw or write down different ways to be kind to animals.
Children can draw or write down different ways to be kind to animals.

Before the lesson begins, locate a lamb stuffed animal and bring it to the classroom. Sit the children on the floor in the storytime area, and show them how to pet the toy in a gentle manner. This will give them hands-on practice on how to be kind to animals as they pet them. Place the lamb on the floor and ask the students to raise their hands if any of them own a pet. Allow some time for discussion, since small children love to talk about any animals they may have in the home.

After allowing students time to discuss the different pets they own, ask them what pets need in order to be healthy and happy. Sample responses may include food, water, and a place to sleep. After praising children for their answers, tell the students they will now hear about a girl and a pet that followed her everywhere she went.

At that point, show the students the book Mary Had a Little Lamb. Talk about the book cover and the author. Be sure to show the title page as well.

Next, read the story to the children, showing the pictures to them as the book is read. During the reading of the book, some teachers may choose to talk about the pictures as well. This is a visual example of what children need to do in order to be kind to animals.

Students should take note of Mary petting the lamb, feeding it, spending time with it, and treating it kindly. After reading the story, ask the children why the lamb liked to be around Mary. Students will probably respond by commenting that Mary was nice to the lamb and took care of it. Tell the students that everyone in the world should follow Mary's example and be kind to animals.

Remind the students that if they tease their pets, hit them, pull their tails, or display other cruel acts, their pets will not want to be around them. Discuss the fact that the lamb followed Mary everywhere because it loved her. A pet cannot love someone who tries to hurt it or neglects it.

After discussion of the book, ask students to draw pictures of a pet they have or would like to have. They can draw or write about all the things they need to do in order to be kind to animals. Another alternative is to distribute old magazines and newspapers and allow students to cut pictures of things that pets need. They can choose pictures of pet food, water, a person caring for a pet, or any other picture that illustrates the lesson. Children can then glue the pictures to construction paper.

Having a small pet can teach children more about animals.
Having a small pet can teach children more about animals.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - Teachers and parents just need to ensure they walk the walk rather than just hanging a "be kind to animals" poster on the wall. If you tell kids that they should be kind to all animals and then panic when there might be a mouse or spider in the room, or something, then you are sending really mixed messages.

You don't need to become a full on vegetarian, but I do think that you need to have some kind of philosophy in place about animals and how you think they should be treated and be consistent about it.

Children like explanations that make sense to them. They like understanding the way the world works. If you explain why animals should be treated well in a way that they find relevant, they are much more likely to do it in the future.


@croydon - I agree that the idea of being kind and cautious around animals should be mentioned a lot with children, but explicit lessons are important as well. I actually think every classroom should have their own class pet, if possible and lessons should revolve around that.

It's particularly good if it's something that you can't really pet or hold like frogs or mice, because it teaches kids that they don't always have to be hands on to explore what a creature happens to be like. They can watch and listen and so forth instead.


I like this idea of a lesson, but this kind of thing really needs to be discussed more than once with young children. They will often be kind and concerned about animals as a default position but just not realize how to show it.

It's also extremely important to make sure that they understand that they should never approach an animal that they don't know well. You can end up making them too enthusiastic about gently patting every dog they see and that can lead to trouble if they try to pat one that doesn't want to be touched.

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