Having a kid who loves animals doesn’t mean that you are destined to clean up dog hair all over your house for years to come. There are plenty of ways to get hands-on experience with animals from volunteer opportunities to programs like 4-H that teach animal husbandry along with leadership skills. Find our favorites below!

Build a butterfly garden.


Butterflies are more than just beautiful insects with wings: they play a vital role in the production of flowering plants which means without butterflies many, many plants would not flower, fruit and seed. Give these jewel-toned pollinators a place to call home no matter how much space you have. We have all the info you need to build your own butterfly garden here

Volunteer your time as a citizen scientist.


Did you know that you can donate your time to help scientists study all of the living creatures in your area? Kids make great citizen scientists as they can use their observational skills and learn about plants and animals that live near us. SciStarter has a great search tool where you can look for projects that need volunteers in your area. Search for stinkbugs in your back yard, head to a nearby water source and listen for frog mating calls and collect samples from your backyard to send to scientists. What a great way to learn and give back! 

Join your local 4-H organization.

Kate Loweth

Not just for farm communities, 4-H organizations are a great way to get hands-on experience for kids who love animals. Whether you want to learn about chickens, bees, goats, pigs or other animals, 4-H has a program for you. Kids learn about animal husbandry by learning what makes specific breeds special. Best of all, you often don't even have to keep your 4-H animals at your own home as they can stay at the 4-H farm. The program is also great at developing kids as leaders as it is fully youth-led. Find a 4-H club near you

Volunteer at your local animal shelter.


Do you have an animal shelter near you? Often times kids can volunteer as play partners to shelter animals when a parent comes along with them. Looking for another way to help out? Shelters often need blankets for incoming pets as well as food and other supplies. Consider running a supply drive in your neighborhood or school to contribute that way! 

Offer to walk your neighbors' dogs.

A Latinx family cuddles with their dog on the couch

If you want to get your "dog fix" without the commitment of owning your own mutt, see if any neighbors are looking for a dog walker. Often older individuals would love this opportunity to give their animal some exercise and you can have fun teaching Fido some new tricks while you're at it! 

Stay the night at a farmstay.

Mimi O'Connor

If you've always wanted to wake up with the chickens, book a weekend at a nearby farmstay. These cozy cabins come with loads of opportunities to interact with animals and farm-fresh eggs for your breakfast. 

Get the kids started with composting.

antrania via pixabay

Composting teaches kids to be environmentally conscious and it's also a great way for them to learn all about the tiny critters like bugs and worms that make our dirt what it is. If they really get into worms, try vermicomposting!

Try a small animal instead.

Kate Loweth

Small animals teach kids a lot of the same skills that they can learn from having a dog or cat like being responsible for another creature's needs. Bearded dragons, hampsters and even backyard chickens are a great way to satisfy a child's want for a pet with much less work on your part. 

—Kate Loweth


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