It’s inspiring when children want to get involved in efforts to help save animals. Maybe they want to help the 6.5 million animals that enter U.S. shelters every year by promoting adoption. Or perhaps educate people about how wild habitats are being destroyed by plastic pollution, climate change, and deforestation. It gives us hope that future generations will continue the work so many people have dedicated their lives to, and shows the world that you’re never too young to make a difference.
When a child expresses interest in a cause, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. But whatever cause they choose, it’s important to support them in their efforts. Having the support of the adults in their life will build confidence, and help them become more compassionate individuals. Here are a few easy (and fun) ways to help children get involved in helping animals and making our world a better place.
1. Hold a Donation Drive
Shelters and animal rescue organizations rely heavily on donated items to help care for animals, and no donation is too small. Children can ask their friends to bring donations instead of presents for a birthday party, ask their teacher if they can place a donation bin in their classroom, or hold a neighborhood donation drive.
If you’re not sure what to buy, check out the organization’s website for a “wish list” of items they need most. A shelter that recently received an abandoned litter of puppies or kittens might need milk replacer, or perhaps they’re running low on blankets and toys to help keep animals cozy and occupied in their kennels. When it’s time to drop off the donations, invite the children along (if allowed) so they can see the animals that will benefit from their donations.
2. Plan a Fundraiser
Nonprofit organizations rely on donations to help fund not only animal care costs, but educational programs and rescue efforts. Planning a fundraiser is a good alternative to a donation drive for organizations that are in need of program funding as opposed to animal care costs, such as animal protection organizations or those focused on habitat preservation.
Set up a donation box in the classroom or use an online fundraising platform that can be shared on social media. There are a lot of organizations out there, so it’s one that you’re not familiar with, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research first to make sure the organization is reputable.
3. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter or Sanctuary
Nothing compares to hands-on interaction with animals, whether it’s cuddling sweet kittens, walking dogs or feeding horses. And encouraging children to volunteer with animals helps teach them the importance of caring for others in a fun, yet meaningful way. Some organizations have age restrictions due to liability reasons, so always make sure you check first before visiting. If your child prefers a more quiet activity, a shelter reading program could be the perfect fit.
Check with your local animal shelter or animal sanctuary to see if they offer day camps or other fun summer activities that involve working with animals. Remember to keep an open mind by thinking beyond traditional shelters with dogs, cats, and small animals. There are also rescue groups and sanctuaries for horses and farm animals, meaning kids can have the opportunity interact with and learn about a variety of animal species.
4. Work to Spread Awareness
Education is key in helping to raise awareness about causes, and children of all ages can get involved in advocacy work. Engage children in a letter writing campaign to let elected officials know that younger constituents want their voices heard. Ideas include a letter to encourage city council members to enact a pet store ordinance or do away with discriminatory breed-specific legislation. They can also write to educate them about animal welfare concerns tied to circuses and other forms of animal entertainment.
School projects provide the perfect opportunity to educate classmates about animal welfare topics too. Some topic ideas are pet adoption, how plastic pollution affects marine animals, and how to help save animals from extinction.
5. Teach Compassion at Home
Compassion starts at home. Instead of using trips to zoos and aquariums as a learning activity, engage them in activities where they’ll learn about the humane treatment of animals.
It’s important for children (and adults) to learn that animals are not toys or here for our entertainment; they’re beautiful, intelligent creatures that deserve to be treated with compassion — and it’s our job to help protect them.
Lead image source: Andrew Laskin for Farm Sanctuary/Facebook