Animal Care Classes for NYC Kids: Feed, Care and Talk to the Animals
My kids, like so many others, are obsessed with animals. My son in particular has been campaigning hard for a puppy, but so far, we’ve remained an animal-free household. Of course there's only so long I can put him off. That's why I was thrilled to find out that there are lots of animal care classes for kids, so he can get his cute critter fix, and I can keep my sofa free of fur and scratches.
Taking an animal care class is a lot more hands-on than visiting a petting zoo. Children find out how much work goes into looking after them and what a big responsibility they are. They also learn respect and compassion for all creatures. So next time your child asks for a four-legged pal, consider signing them up for one of these animal care classes for kids instead (hey at least you'll find out if they're ready to clean up poop).
Animal Care Trainee at Alley Pond Environmental Center – Douglaston
228-06 Northern Boulevard near the Cross Island Express Way
Select Saturdays. Check the calendar for upcoming dates.
My son went to APEC’s Animal Care Trainee class and just loved it. During the two-hour lesson, children ages 8 to 12 meet the center's residents, and then get a chance to clean ferret cages, groom rabbits, moisturize turtle shells (who knew?) and do other hands-on tasks. And since the class is limited to eight students, they definitely work their little tails off! Instructors also teach participants about the animals' natural habitats, conservation efforts and rules for (or against) keeping them as pets.
Caring Kids at Animal Haven Shelter – Nolita
251 Centre Street near Broome Street
This shelter for cats and dogs not only offers adoption services, it hosts a Caring Kids Program where children ages 5 to 13 can learn animal care basics and bond with homeless pets. Each week has a different topic, like Animal Body Language, Working with Animals and Animal Heroes, and kids meet with different animal experts and learn about welfare efforts. This program is definitely less hands-on than APEC's, but it's a great way for children to learn about the plight of our city's many abandoned animals.
The Art Farm in the City – Upper East Side
419 East 91st Street between First and York Avenues
Various programs, dates and prices. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
We're longtime fans of this one-of-a-kind indoor farm and play space. There are lots of ways to connect with animals here. Children ages 4 to 7 can sign up for a semester of after-school Animal Care Classes to nurture hamsters, turtles, bunnies, mice, guinea pigs and more exotic creatures like a bearded dragon and a chinchilla. Additional activities include animal-themed stories and crafts. For the commitment-phobic, consider the drop-in weekend program Mornings on the Farm, when families can help feed the animals. Or you could also consider adopting a part-time pet that will never set foot in your home.
Little Vet School – Midtown West
410 W 55th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues
Admittedly, this program is pretty pricey, but it's the only class that gives kids a behind-the-scenes look at life in an animal hospital. At BluePearl Veterinary Partners, an animal emergency and specialty care center, children ages 8 to 10 learn how to properly care for animals and get an overview of the veterinary profession. Each week they explore a new subject, like bones, blood and surgery, and they even get to use real medical equipment to diagnose and treat live animals. Although dropping off is allowed, parents are strongly encouraged to stay and participate—it's cheaper too.
Junior Keepers Series at the Central Park Zoo – Upper East Side
Fifth Avenue and 64th Street
Visit the website for schedule.
In Central Park Zoo’s Junior Keepers Series, children ages 8 to 10 get to assist the zookeepers. During the first session, kids study reptiles and help prepare their meals. In the second class, kids learn how zookeepers enrich the animal environments and exhibits. In the final session, kids get up close and personal with penguins.
Although none of the other NYC zoos are currently offering specific animal care classes, they all have wonderful family programs that include lots of face time with their residents. To see what's on offer, visit the Wildlife Conservation Society website where you'll find links to all of the NYC zoos, save for the independent Staten Island Zoo. Another great place to feed and care for animals? The Queens County Farm Museum, which is free to visit.
Find out about other awesome kids' programs in our Classes Guide.