Acting like an ape may get your kids to share.
Stories of animals behaving "kindly" can show kids they can also get along with anyone. Elephants that comfort friends, benevolent bonobos that share food, and dolphins that do favors show kids how animals of all kinds (including the human kind) can provide comfort, patience, camaraderie, and teamwork.
Talk about these stories with your brood, then ask them for examples of how they’ve behaved—or could’ve behaved—in similar ways.
Exposure to animals might mean fewer sick days from school.
Well, kind of. Studies have shown that animals do indeed make us happier and healthier. You’ve probably heard about the amazing work that therapy animals (including these adorable helping hooves) can do to improve the lives of others. But research also points to a high correlation between pet ownership and empathetic kids. Pets like this sweet horse and brave dog can even help kids find their inner hero. And who doesn’t feel good about that?
Save animals—save the world!
When kids care about animals, they’ll care about protecting them—as well as the planet we all live on. Zoos, animal sanctuaries, and wildlife refuges are great places to start. National Geographic’s Photo Ark initiative, which aims to photograph every captive species in the world, will inspire your kids to help protect these animals. Get them started with these simple, fun ideas to save threatened and endangered species.
Teaching your kids to "speak dog" teaches them to talk to everyone.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Chaser, the border collie that knows 1,000 words. But it turns out that simply the tone of your voice tells your dog exactly what you’re saying. If kids can learn to decode a bark or a meow—as well as how to "talk" back—they just might become better communicators in life. See how their animal-speak skills are coming along with this fun quiz.
Get kids involved—get kinder kids!
The best way to teach kids kindness and compassion is to have them show it themselves—and volunteering is a great start. Nat Geo Kids’ Mission Animal Rescue initiative includes inspirational videos about endangered and threatened animals and ideas for writing letters and throwing theme parties.
If all else fails, try bringing out the animal instincts in your kids. Go chase balls and make new friends at the park, or simply cuddle up as a pack when the day is done. Because everyone can use a little bit of that sort of kindness.