How to Overcome a Toddler's Fear of Animals: 5 Steps
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Most toddlers will naturally outgrow their fear of animals.


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Animals can be downright frightening to a toddler. In fact, fear of animals is one of the most common fears among children ages 2 to 4 years old. Although there are a number of things you can do to reduce your toddler's fears, rest assured that most do outgrow it over time.

Steps

  1. 1
    Pet the stuffed animals with your toddler at the toy store and show an interest in them. Allow him to choose his favorite stuffed animal and purchase it for him. This will help him warm up to the concept of animals in a way that feels safe to him.
  2. 2
    Role-play with your child and animal hand puppets or plastic toys. Have your toddler alternate between playing the role of the child and playing the role of various animals. The imaginary scenarios she creates could give you some insight into which animals your child fears the most and why.
  3. 3
    Read animal-focused stories to your toddler. Choose books that use real images of animals instead of illustrations, and that portray animals as being friendly and playful. As you read, ask your toddler questions about the animals. For example, "which dog is your favorite?" or "Where is the pretty kitty?" This will get your toddler thinking about animals in a positive way.
  4. 4
    Introduce your toddler to live animals gradually. Take him to a pet store and let him see you hold the puppies and kittens. Encourage him to pet one while you hold it and act happy to be around it. When he seems ready, ask him if he wants to hold one. Then, try introducing him to a grown animal, such as your neighbor's mild-mannered dog. When he first meets the animal, stay by his side and put your arm around him if he seems fearful. It may also be helpful for him to see other children his age playing with the animal. Make it a point to regularly introduce your toddler to different animals so that he can get comfortable with different temperaments and personalities.
  5. 5
    Get your toddler a pet of her own. Hamsters and guinea pigs make great starter pets. Let her help you feed the animal and take care of it. Encourage her to play and bond with it. As she comes to love her pet, she will start to see animals in a new light.

Tips

  • Infants are born with three instinctual fears -- sudden movements, sudden approaches, and loud or abrupt noises. Many animals display these behaviors, which could explain your toddler's fear. These fears are gradually replaced with other fears during the toddler years and preschool years. Patience and understanding is the key.Teach your toddler safe ways to approach an animal. Never approach a strange animal from behind. Also, many animals like to sniff a new person before they feel comfortable with her petting him.Cautiousness around strange animals is a healthy behavior for your toddler to display. It will prevent her from running up to a dog he does not know or a wild animal that could potentially hurt him.

Warnings

  • Don't expose your toddler to books, television shows or movies that portray animals as being scary. This will only reinforce her fears.

Things You'll Need

  • Stuffed animals
  • Child and animal hand puppets or plastic toys
  • Animal-focused storybooks

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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