5 lessons about family from the animal world

Do your kids act like animals? When it comes to family bonding, it’s cool to encourage that behavior! Check out these stories about strong animal families. You just might learn some lessons that could help strengthen your own pack.


Talk about extreme parenting. While his mate hunts, a male emperor penguin stands on the Antarctic ice with their egg tucked warmly on his feet. In minus 40°F temperatures. For four months. Why such protectiveness? If the egg slips off—even for a few seconds—it freezes. When the exhausted mom returns, it’s her turn to help protect the new chick on her feet so dad can finally eat. Watch emperor penguin families.


Elephants aren’t just family—they’re friends. And friends help each other. One herd tried to hold up an elephant after she became woozy from a researcher’s tranquilizer. In another, family members visited a young female with a broken leg every day. One group was even observed building a dirt ramp so that a mom and baby could walk out of a hole! Watch elephants.


Working together, dolphins might be the best fed mammals in the ocean! Bottlenose dolphin pods have been observed stirring up mud in shallow waters to trap fish, which then leap over the mud wall—into the dolphins’ mouths. Other groups force fish into a clump for easy pickings. But cooperation goes beyond eating. With help from another dolphin, a new mom will gently nudge her baby to the surface for its first breath. Watch bottlenose dolphins.


When a wolf "talks," the pack listens. Every howl, bark, whine, and growl means something different, whether it’s calling family members to hunt or telling pups to behave. Wolves also communicate with body language. They know a wolf’s in charge when its head, tail, and ears are held high. And younger siblings will lick the muzzles of older ones to show respect. No mixed signals in this family! Watch wolves.


In a meerkat family, everyone has a job to do. Some are guards, looking out for predators like eagles or jackals. Others are construction workers, digging and maintaining the territory’s "bolt holes," where meerkats dive and hide from danger. Then there are babysitters, watching over pups while their alpha parents hunt. And the pups? Their job is to learn how to be a proper meerkat! Watch meerkats.