My daughters, like many children, absolutely LOVE dogs. Although we don’t own a dog, we have many friends and family members who do, and our girls always look forward to playing with and petting the dogs when we visit those homes. But my kids’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm about dogs doesn’t translate to an innate understanding of how to respect and interact with dogs safely. (Ever seen a kid yank on a dog’s tail, try to ride a dog, get in a dog’s face when they are sleeping or eating? Yep, my kids have tried to do all that and more!)
So how do we encourage our kids to enjoy these wonderful pets while staying safe?
Teaching some basic precautions can go a long way. And if you’re not sure where to start, or you think your children or students could use a refresher, I highly recommend the book May I Pet Your Dog? by Stephanie Calmenson. This book teaches dog safety in a way that is easy for children to understand without stirring up an unhealthy fear of dogs.
What makes the book extra fun is that it’s told from the perspective of a dog talking to a little boy. My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and I appreciated the clear presentation of dog safety guidelines. Some of those guidelines include:
Do not interact with an unknown dog if his/her owner is not there.
Always ask to pet someone’s dog before touching them or getting too close.
Be considerate of dogs who are sleeping, eating, caring for puppies or chewing on a bone, toy or stick.
Be gentle and be kind – remember that dogs have feelings, too!
(Taken from pages 30-31 in May I Pet Your Dog?)
Do you have suggestions for helping kids learn how to interact safely with dogs? Please leave a comment!
Isn’t it incredible that God has given us an orderly world and given some people the incredible capacity to study and further understand that beautiful world?
One such person is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her interest and work in animal studies and environmentalism have inspired many people to take greater responsibility in taking care of wildlife and our earth’s natural resources. You can share her story with your students or children by reading the book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. He tells the story of Jane Goodall’s growing up years in a lovely, simple way. The illustrations earned the book the Caldecott Honor and uniquely included some of Jane’s childhood notes/illustrations in addition to a photo of her as a young adult for the ending. My children really liked reading this book – and so did I!
Check out my post Snowflakes and Science for another excellent children’s biography of a scientist. Sharing these life stories of scientists with children, who already have a natural curiosity, helps to encourage their spirit of inquiry and exploration.
Reader’s Theater can be such a fun literacy activity for a traditional classroom or homeschooling co-op group!
In our weekly visit to the library, my children and I came across a picture book that would make for a wonderful reader’s theater activity: Where Are You Going? To See My Friend by friends and illustrators Eric Carle and Kazuo Iwamura. This is a bilingual book in English and Japanese that tells the story of a dog who invites animal friends one by one to join him in meeting his friend. It is written in a basic script for early readers to be able to read independently and has a solid pattern and rhythm that will help students to stay on track as they perform.
What makes it especially unique is that the first half of the book is in English, while the second half of the book is in Japanese (which is read from the last page to the middle), with the same text but different illustrations. Such a unique twist!
Where Are You Going? To See My Friend is a fun read aloud when you make a distinct voice for each new animal character who appears in the story. But for slightly older students, it would be very exciting to follow it up with a reader’s theater!
If you’ve never done a reader’s theater before, try it out: After reading the book aloud to your class, simply assign each child one animal and rehearse the lines in groups of 6. (You may need to facilitate the rehearsals more closely depending on the age and reading ability.) Then allow each group to present to the rest of the class!
Counting Chickens by Polly Alakija tells the story of an African boy named Tobi, who patiently waits for his new hen to lay eggs… And then waits patiently for the eggs to hatch. Meanwhile, his other friends from the village watch as their various livestock have baby animals. The story underscores the vast number of people around the world who live in rural areas and depend on raising animals to provide for their families.What a gem! A book that is multicultural, educational and can be easily used to encourage patience as well as generosity in the home and in the classroom.
What a gem!
This book allows you to teach or introduce:
Days of the week
Ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third)
Names of animal babies (such as “kid” for baby goat)
At the same time, the book provides a look at another culture. Although it takes place in Africa, a similar story could be told in many villages around the world.
Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade
Throughout the week, reflect on the times that your child waits patiently (in the line at the supermarket, dinner being prepared, etc.) and praise him/her for demonstrating patience just like Tobi did in this book. Maybe even give your child a high five!
Take a look at options available through World Vision or Ox Fam to donate animals to families in need around the world. This is an incredible way to be generous, and many options begin around $20. If it’s financially possible for your family, allow your child to pick out an animal to donate to a family like Tobi’s somewhere in the world to provide a sustainable way to support themselves.
Explain (or remind, if it’s already been taught) that our world has 7 continents. On a map or globe, point out the continent on which you live. Then point out the continent of Africa, where the story takes place.
Fundraise money for your class to purchase an animal through a non-profit organization such as World Vision or Oxfam. Hold a bake sale, invite students and parents to donate with an announcement in your class newsletter, or organize a Valentine’s Day candy gram! See how many animals you are able to purchase with the money you raise.
I had a college roommate who spent much of her growing-up years in Thailand and I have relative and friends who have traveled there. After hearing about Thai culture from several people over the last decade, I was excited when I found a picture book at our library to explore Thai culture with my children.
Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho has rhyming text and adorable pictures. My daughters loved finding the little girl in each picture, who is playing hide-and-seek with her father. They also liked the animals that appeared on each page as part of the storyline. The illustrations showed vegetation and architecture that is native to Thailand.
I really liked being able to show my children a little bit of another culture while at the same time emphasizing the similarities among children around the world, who all love to play!
Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten
Point out the Thai text on the inside covers of the book. Ask your child if it looks similar or different from the English text in the story. What do they notice about each type of writing?
Many animals appear in this peek-a-boo book that are native to Thailand. Elephants are especially prominent in Thai culture. Play this children’s song in Thai (only a minute and a half long) featuring an elephant.
Find Thailand on a map or globe together. Explain that Thailand is located on the continent of Asia and the weather is warm and tropical there. There are also many different types of animals that live in Thailand!
The highlight of our family trip to the northern woods last month was the trail ride we took on horseback. My youngest daughter rode with my husband, while my oldest daughter rode with me. (She chattered the entire time, she was so happy and excited!)
When we came back home from that wonderful trip, my daughters continually talked about our memorable horseback ride through the beautiful autumn woods. They asked many questions about horses – so naturally we found a lovely picture book about horses at the public library. 🙂
Horses: Trotting! Prancing! Racing! by Patricia Hubbell is a solid book to teach about popular breeds of horses and to describe the array of duties and activities horses complete. From herding cows to dancing in the circus, children will learn about the many things a horse can be trained to do.
I recommend this book to include in an animal study unit or for children who are simply interested in horses. Enjoy!
Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade
Look in your area for horseback riding opportunities at local stables or farms. Or check out a local petting zoo that has a horse or pony. Hayrides and sleigh rides could be fun, too!
Go through the book after reading and ask your child to describe what the horses are doing in each picture. Ask: If you were a horse, which job would you prefer?
Create a fun and easy horse craft using paper plates and paint.
Ask students if anyone has ever ridden a horse or seen a horse up close. What was it like?
Once you’ve read the book aloud, create a list of the jobs horses can do.
Bring in a horse in the form of a stuffed animal, puppet or toy. Have your class vote on what job they would give the horse if it were real, based on the examples in the book.
Cut out horseshoes from white or gray paper and have students paint or color. Hang the completed horseshoes up on a wall or as the border for a bulletin board. (Check out these free horseshoe printables for easy photocopying!)
The Galapagos Islands are recognized since 1978 by the United Nations as a World Heritage location. Located off the coast of Ecuador (and officially a part of that country), the Galapagos are a source of endless learning opportunities in geography, natural science and marine biology.
Kick off learning in any of those areas by reading aloud the picture book We’re Sailing to Galapagos: A Week in the Pacific, written by first grade teacher Laurie Krebs. This book has lyrical text with a tercet that repeats through the book:
We’re sailing to Galapagos, Galapagos, Galapagos.
We’re sailing to Galapagos.
I wonder who we’ll see.
The seven days of the week are also given, with a different animal discovered each day of visiting the Galapagos Islands. Collage illustrations add flavor to the discoveries readers make as they “travel” to Galapagos. Additional information is provided at the end of the book on the history and geology of Galapagos, a brief biography of scientist Charles Darwin and additional details on the animals identified in the story.
Help your child locate the Galapagos Islands on a world map. How far is that from where you live? Talk about how you would be able to get to Galapagos: walk, drive, take a boat or fly in an airplane?
Talk about the days of your week. What will your family and/or child be doing each day this week? If desired, print off a copy of this chart with the days of the week and write or draw in the activities your child does each day this week.
Practice the days of the week with a fun song! (If the video images are too juvenile for your child’s age, just use the song.)
Using a globe or a world map, ask for a volunteer to find South America, Ecuador or the Pacific Ocean (depending on age of your students and prior knowledge). Then point out the Galapagos Islands. Discuss which types of transportation you can use to reach an island.
Make a bulletin board with printed photos of animals from the Galapagos Islands and facts if desired.
Invite a student from an older grade to come in the classroom and read the tercet of the book with you. Or print off the final line of the tercet (I wonder who we’ll see) and practice it with students. Then ask them to say it aloud each time you read the tercet for audience participation. 🙂