We Bought a Zoo: Caring for Animals
...Helping your Kids Appreciate Wildlife and Pets
Click here to watch the trailer for the movie We Bought a Zoo, coming to theaters on December 23.
"You don't even need any special knowledge to run a zoo. What you need is a lot of heart." - Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo.
In We Bought a Zoo, dad Benjamin Mee (played by Matt Damon) makes a bold move and buys a zoo (you probably figured that out from the film's title…). At first, he makes the decision because he thinks it will be a great experience for his children. But as the weight of responsibility of running the zoo starts to grow, Benjamin and his children learn a lot more than they bargained for. They learn how to love and appreciate the amazing animals under their care, giving them a much deeper understanding of the wonders of nature.
While your family will probably never own a zoo, nurturing a love for the outdoors and wildlife in your children is an important job for a dad. Here are some tips to get you started:
5 Tips to Help Your Children Appreciate Animals
- #1: Start with a visit to the zoo: You probably won't own a zoo like Benjamin and his kids, but visiting the zoo is a wonderful family activity that will help your children learn about animals around the world. The Smithsonian National Zoo offers some downloadable activity sheets, including scavenger hunts and bingo, that will make the trip extra fun and educational.
- #2: Learn about wildlife: No zoo nearby? Just head outside for the afternoon and learn about the creatures around you. National Wildlife Foundation has some great kid-friendly activities for observing wildlife, including bird-watching, bug hunts, and nature hikes.
- #3: Look beyond your immediate surroundings: Once you've explored the wildlife in your own backyard, stretch your horizons. As your family travels to other parts of the country, learn about the animals and wildlife that are native to that region. If you don't travel much, learn about animals with your kids through the internet and educational television shows - check out National Geographic for kids.
- #4: Involve your kids in caring for pets: If you have pets or are thinking about adding an animal to your family, involve your kids in its care. Set age-appropriate responsibilities for your child. The ASPCA has some helpful tips for choosing the right pet and helping pets and kids play nicely together. If you choose not to have pets in your home, encourage your children to be involved with animals by petsitting for a neighbor or playing with their friends' pets.
- #5: Help your kids learn life lessons from pets: Caring for an animal is a great way to help your children learn responsibility, develop empathy and compassion, and build confidence. As your kids interact with pets, talk with them about what that animal is teaching them about caring for others or being responsible.
(Check out this article by NFI partner American Humane Association on how the actors and director of We Bought a Zoo interacted with the animals on set during filming.)