One of the earliest lessons that children may learn when there is a small animal in their classroom is how to approach and tolerate their fellow creatures. If the animal is tame enough to handle, children may also be allowed to learn how to cradle something so small and delicate. These firm yet gentle techniques for handling a hamster or other small creature can translate into learning how better to control their own hands and bodies for other activities. Eye to hand coordination may improve. Plus, the miracle of a tiny life right there in the palm of their own young hands can be quite profound, producing wide eyes of wonderment and smiles galore. These lessons on how to approach smaller creatures can lead to learning how to treat fellow human beings better as well. Gentleness, patience and tolerance can translate from this tiny being to the larger ones in their lives.
There are also the lessons of routine and responsibility. Just like eating schedules exist for people, so it is with these tiny charges in the classroom. Children will learn that they aren’t the only ones who need to have things happen at certain times. Teachers may even allow them to take turns each day with the feeding of the class gerbil, bunny or gecko. This provides yet one more way that children can learn how to be patient as they wait for their turn. And, along with taking turns caring for the animal and holding it, some teachers may allow students to take turns bringing these tiny charges home. All these lessons in patience and responsibility can last a lifetime.
Hamsters and other small animals do more than eat, sleep and run in their wheels, too. Food storage, digging into their bedding and other interactions with their environment occur as well. Watching all this behavior may give a child better insight not only into nature’s approach to life but also a new view on their own behavior and that of the other people around them. Building a fort out of their blankets takes on a new meaning when they see that even tiny creatures do the same thing. Storing food for later could become a topic of discussion at home as well as in the classroom. And there are certainly many other life lessons or topics that can be attained from observing a living example in their midst.
Learning how to treat domestic creatures can lead to an appreciation of wildlife in general. Talking about this tiny piece of nature in the classroom and at home can lead to bigger discussions and lessons about the world at large and our place within it. And all of this can lead to better understanding of these other beings that share our planet with us as well as embedding a sense of respect for the natural world. Not every child is going to take these lessons and become an environmentalist, of course, but certainly even a few of the lesser insights will most likely alter their perceptions for the better. And those little lessons add up over the long run to help develop a well rounded, responsible and caring individual as these children exposed to the life of a small critter in their midst grow to adulthood.