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Ways to Teach Children About the Dangers of Wild Animals

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As parents and caregivers, you want to teach children about wild animals and help them develop a healthy respect for wildlife, both in their own backyard and beyond. By understanding the differences between wild and tame animals, your children will learn to appreciate nature from a safe distance. Here is the knowledge and tools you need to teach children about wildlife safety.


Most of us have enjoyed cartoons at some point in our lives. Heck, some of us still do! Disney and other companies have made animation entertaining for adults and kids. It’s so easy to get sucked into a movie and become attached to the cute animal characters, isn’t it? Just like teaching your child to brush their teeth or how to tell if food is spoiled, a basic understanding of wild animals is a crucial life skill. If you homeschool, it could be another survival skill you teach. Let’s look at how to teach our children wildlife safety.

What is a wild animal?

Most children would consider a wild animal to be one that lives in the jungle or the zoo. However, plenty of wildlife could live right in your backyard. Even familiar animals like squirrels or raccoons, are considered wild.

3 Key Points

Here are three key points to remember when teaching your child about wild animals:

  1. Habitat: A wild animal lives in nature, not just in jungles or zoos. The crazy raccoon that trots across the lawn is not the friendly critter your child may think it is. The many insects or critters that may roam on your property? Also wild. If it’s in nature, then there’s a chance that it could harm you. Kids need to know that the cute, jabbery squirrels at the park are in nature, and therefore, they are wild.
  2. Behavior: Wild animals are unpredictable and act on instinct. They are not tame. Emphasize to children that wild animals act and react, regardless of what we say or do. Their size doesn’t matter – a small snake can be just as dangerous as a large bear.
  3. Tameness: Even pets unfamiliar to your child can be unpredictable. Your child may think that the neighbor’s dog is a friendly dog, when it may not be. Teach your children to always ask you and the pet’s owner for permission before touching any animal.

Methods to Teach Wildlife Safety

There are many ways to engage children of all ages in learning about how to safely interact with animals in their natural habitat. Here are a few ideas:

For Younger Children

Nature walks: Walk around the park and talk to them about the animals they see, where they live, and why they are dangerous. This is also a good opportunity to point out natural landmarks and discuss how to stay oriented.

Coloring pages and books: Look for coloring books featuring wild animals from different habitats and teach as you color. They’re entertaining for all ages.

Flashcard games: Flash cards are another easy way to show your children what animals they should avoid. I used cards like this – Wild Animals & Insects Kids Pocket Flash Cards. Introduce these animals and insects by talking about their size or sound they make. Determine on your own what information about these animals you feel needs to be shared. By playing a game, you can encourage children to memorize wild animals and information about them. The game Animal Tracks is a another possible teaching tool.

Educational shows: PBS’s  Zoboomafoo is a great resource for introducing young children to animals. The Kratt Brothers really know how to talk to preschoolers about animals. Check for old episodes available on streaming services. Kids and adults alike seem to get sucked into the program.

Practice basic safety skills: Play games like “What if…?” or “Simon Says” to teach them to follow instruction, or hide-and-seek to help them learn about staying hidden and finding their way back.

For Older Children:

Animal documentaries: Many educational shows and documentaries are available on streaming services. Look for programs that focus on animal behavior and safety in the wild. My children always enjoyed Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. You can read more about him here and the many ways his life’s work helps older kids understand why we keep a safe distance away from wild animals. When my kids were older, Shark Week was the favorite. While the chances of your family members being attacked by a shark are slim, it illustrates the importance of being aware of your surroundings in nature.

Books: National Geographic’s Wild Animal Atlas is a great resource for exploring animal habitats. Also include books on basic survival skills like first aid or orienteering.

Field trips: Take your children to zoos, animal sanctuaries, or even on nature walks to observe animals in their natural environment. Many cities offer discounts or free days. Discuss what to do if they get separated from the group. Overnight camping is one way to put your children in the animal’s environment. Additionally, a simple walk in your own neighborhood can offer many chances to look for dangerous animals and to discuss what to do if confronted by one. These are opportunities for kids to learn the importance of respecting and avoiding the homes of animals.

Practice map reading and compass use: Teach them basic navigation skills so they can find their way back if they get turned around.

Pro Wildlife Safety Tips

  • Involve your child in creating a “wildlife safety plan” for your home and neighborhood. Include a plan for what to do if they get lost.
  • Lead by example: show your child how you observe and respect wildlife from a safe distance.
  • Consider attending a wilderness safety course together as a family (for older children).
  • Use opportunities as you are going about your daily life to teach, practice, and reinforce these lessons.


How can I teach my child not to be afraid of wild animals?

Focus on education and respect, not fear. Help your child appreciate the wonder of nature while understanding the importance of staying safe.

Final Thoughts

Remember to teach with fact and through education, not by fear. We want our children to be in awe of nature and have a desire to learn more about it. At the same time, understand that there is a respect that goes with it. Animals need their home and space respected. We can observe from afar and be safe.

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