Why do children love animals so? Not just the beloved kitties or dogs they've known all their lives, but virtually any animal. Farm animals, jungle animals, forest animals. Animals they've only glimpsed at the zoo, or out the window of a car. Animals they've never seen and probably never will see.
Stories, images and all those myriad stuffed animals lying around the house seem to work their way into the imaginations of the little ones in ways we can't fully understand. We are always touched to witness our kids extending their vast reserves of love and empathy to creature-kind, both real and imagined.
This empathetic connection is what makes talking to preschoolers about endangered species a powerful way to teach them about environmental stewardship. It is also, however, a subject that requires a certain delicacy—we don't want to scare our little animal lovers!
Bears of all sorts are natural favorites of the preschool crowd, so it seems only right to begin the conversation with those two causes célèbres, pandas and polar bears.
There are a number of wonderful books to introduce these sadly threatened giants of the natural world to the little ones. We love:
Endangered Pandas by Bobbie Kalman
Little Panda: The World Welcomes Hua Mei at the San Diego Zoo by Joanne Ryder
Snowy White World to Save by Stephanie Lisa Tower
How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World (Knut) by Craig Hatkoff
The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
Another lovely idea comes to us from the World Wildlife Fund. Their site offers all the information we could want about the environmental challenges facing polar bears and pandas. And if you are looking for a gift for some small animal lover you know, consider one of their Adopt a Panda or Adopt a Polar Bear packages which come along with a plush bear, adoption certificate and knowing that you are contributing to an important cause.
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