My boys are nearly 4 and 2.5 years old. One activity I'd like to integrate into our monthly routine is a “Doing Good Day” or also known as a “Service Project”. I was really excited when my mother asked if we would like to visit the local animal shelter. We're visiting the town in which I grew up and although I drove by the shelter on most days as a child, I can count on one hand how many times I actually explored the shelter.
So we gathered up some coins to bring to the local grocery store to put through the Coin Star machine. Then we strolled through the Pet Aisle to pick up some food, treats & toys for the animals.
As we headed to the shelter, I asked my sons: “Why do these animals live in a shelter?” So we were able to bring light to an admittedly often sad situation, in my view. I explained that some animals were sick, rescued or their previous owners could not longer care for them. “So, the shelter takes care of them?” My older son asked me and then added, “and maybe they will find another home?” Bingo. I have to be honest I was happy that the thought process ended there. I was not prepared for a more difficult conversation about what happens if these animals do not find homes.
We were greeted by a woman who manages the shelter and the boys handed her our gifts for the animals. Then she pointed us in the right direction to see the animals. My boys quickly found their way. They were able to see big dogs, little dogs, furry dogs and not so furry dogs. They were also able to see the caretakers and other potential owners taking a close look at the animals. So I was able to talk to my sons about the joy it would be for an animal to find a new home.
The children visiting these animals were respectful (for the most part), gentle and kind. Lovely to see young children so nurturing of real things. Animals bring out those qualities in children. One of the best parts about the experience was that after having this truly “real” experience, as soon as we arrived home, my sons began creating their own animal shelter including bringing in items that “would make the animals feel good and happy”. The authentic experience at an animal shelter ignited pretend play in our home. This pretend play was based in a reality the boys had experienced in their life. I think, just maybe, Dr. Montessori would be proud.
Thanks for reading,