Caring for animals in early learning settings: guidelines for kaiako, teachers and children

Issue: Volume 96, Number 16

Posted: 11 September 2017
Reference #: 1H9ecj

There are great advantages to bringing animals into early learning settings, whether as loved pets, for a particular learning activity, to develop care and responsibility, or simply to kindle interest in other living things. When it comes to introducing animals, ethical guidelines must be followed by early learning services, ngā kōhanga reo, schools and kura.

Animals have an important role to play at Feilding Playcentre, which is currently home to two chickens, plus budgies and goldfish.

Coordinator Carol Storrier says the animals are treasured by the children and whānau at the playcentre, especially the chickens, which first arrived in an incubator, freshly hatched.

“A parent who raised chickens brought them in for us so the children could observe those early days of their life.

“The children watched them grow up and out of the incubator, into the coop that we keep at the back of the centre,” she says.

A perspex panel in the gate allows the children to watch the chickens as they scratch and roam, and when wearing shoes and accompanied by an adult, tamariki are allowed to collect eggs, feed the chickens and top up their water container.

One side of the Playcentre building has large windows so children indoors can observe the chickens as they go about their daily activities. This outdoor space has been developed by Playcentre whānau as an ‘environmental area’, complete with garden beds and a range of fruit trees.

Looking after the chickens teaches responsibility and brings a set of guidelines that include hand-washing, wearing shoes outside, and not chasing or scaring the birds.

The original chickens have since died, but Carol says this is all part of children’s learning about the processes of life, and caring for and nurturing living things.

Feilding Playcentre also keeps goldfish and a pair of budgies named Bluey and Greenie, whose cage can be moved indoors or out. Parents often bring pets and farm animals such as lambs to visit the centre too.

“Children can interact with the birds and fish and help care for them too. Animals are a big part of our day at Playcentre – they’re not just tucked away out of sight,” says Carol.


We have a duty to provide for animals in our care, including meeting their physical, health and behavioural needs. Early learning services me ngā kōhanga reo are also required to implement safe and hygienic handling practices with regard to any animals, and animals must be able to be restrained.

Early learning services me ngā kōhanga reo will also need to give consideration to any events they are running that involve animals to ensure these meet all legislative requirements.

Contacts for more information

For general enquiries about animal welfare education or for instances where you may involve animals as a part of fundraising activities, we recommend you seek specific advice from your local SPCA or their national body the Royal New Zealand SPCA at

Alternatively, you can contact the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) at

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:15 am, 11 September 2017

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