As a mom – who loves animals and is active in animal rescue – my goal has always been to encourage my daughter to follow my lead so she can also help animals. From the youngest age I wanted to encourage my daughter to be the most compassionate person she could be to animals in the hopes I could help contribute a great asset to the next generation of animal rescuers!
Making the world a better place for animals is a never ending journey – and I hope my daughter takes part in that journey.
When she was little I would spend hours scouring for the right toys, videos and games that would help her learn – but more importantly have fun with animals in a variety of ways! And there is no shortage of items out there for kids who love animals – but some come much more recommended than others.
My suggestions below include toys that offer a great learning experience about how to care for animals as well as others that are just plain fun!
Why Animal Toys Are A Great Idea For Toddlers
Although an interesting study was done in Britain a few years ago that clearly shows children will probably prefer a live animal over a toy any day – it is important to really know how ready your child is for a pet.
Toddlers can sometimes be overwhelming to a new dog or cat because they do not have the experience or knowledge to understand how to properly handle a live pet. Dogs can bite – cats can scratch – and it is NOT the pets fault, it is there any way to show they are in pain or afraid. That is why we find these toys to be so important for so many reasons.
Most of the toys on this list will offer some insight into the level of involvement you can expect from your toddler if a new pet is brought into the home. If they are playing with these toys in a way that shows they have real compassion and a real interest in helping with the care of a live pet – well, they just might be ready!
Below are some of our favorite animal focused toys for toddlers that we think will leave the kids giggling – and learning! Whether they learn how to care for a pet or how to rescue a pet, there is a lesson to be had in each of these toys and we have noted the lesson for each one.
Of course – the kids will learn more if there is parental engagement – so take this opportunity to help them understand the care an animal needs, how to treat animals properly so they always stay safe and most importantly – how to have fun with animals and create a bond that can last a lifetime.
Our Favorite Toys That Teach Important Lessons!
The Story of Jingles
This adorable stuffed animal from Operation ResCUTE is another great way to help teach children about the importance of pet adoption. The story of Jingles is a true story about a rescue dog and comes with a stuffed animal. book and sticker.
There are a few other pets in the series as well and the best part? 100% of the proceeds are donated towards helping shelter dogs find homes!
There are other options as well including the Story of Tanner and The Story of Hudson.
THE LESSON: Teaching children about why adoption is a great option when considering a new pet for the family.
Don’t Take Buster’s Bones
This adorable game comes with a deck of cards – you pick a card and see a photo of the bones you need to get from dog bowl, but the trick is to do it without waking Buster up! It runs on 3 double A batteries and is recommended for kids ages 4 and up.
Just like with any toy – there is sometimes a downside and one with this is that more sensitive kids may be a little “scared” when Buster wakes up and makes his noises.
While most kids find the noises funny — we just want to make you aware that it “can” go the other way!
THE LESSON: Although this game is really focused more on fun than a lesson, we do think this is a great time to talk with kids about not interrupting animals while they are eating.
Shelter Pets Series Featuring Chunk the Rat
We love that the Shelter Pets brand offers a pet rat in their line-up of adoptable toy pets. Each toy from Shelter Pets focuses on a real adopted pet and features stories on the Shelter Pets website along with the real life animal the toy is modeled after.
There are 8 options for the Shelter Pets adoptables including a fox and bunny – and the rat shown here!
Shelter Pets was successfully funded on Kickstarter back in 2017 which makes us happy since it shows the interest in adoption and spreading the message!
Chunk the rat was adopted from the Seattle Humane Society in 2007 and is just one of the options you can purchase for your child to love and care for.
THE LESSON: How important adoption is and what a child can do for a homeless pet in terms of care and love!
Little Live Scruff-A-Luv
A matted ball of fur finds their way to your home and once your child gives them a bath, brushes them and gives them lots of love they come to life as a wonderful friend!
It takes a little time to see the pet come to “life” so your child should have a little patience – just like in real life to see the good things happen. The pet comes with a collar, brush, hair clip and adoption certificate.
You can choose a pink or blue pet – but cannot choose the type of pet your get! Your child may get a puppy, kitten or a bunny, but they won’t know for sure until they put in the time to help them feel better.
THE LESSON: How compassion and caring for sick or homeless animals can feel amazing and how patience can bring great rewards.
Melissa & Doug Feeding & Grooming Play Set
This adorable play set is truly made just for the kids that are showing a real love for animals! Recommended for ages 3+, the kit features 24 pieces of play time fun and a chance for children to learn how to care for animals.
The kit comes with both a dog and cat plush animal as well as all of their daily needs such as food, bowls, clippers, collars and more. There is a checklist so kids can keep track of what needs to be done on a daily basis as well.
THE LESSON: Kids will learn about the daily care needed to take care of an animal from feeding to grooming they will get an age appropriate idea of how much work a pet is. This is a great way to introduce them to pet care before getting the real thing.
One of the newer animal toys for toddlers that has been released are Rescue Runts. These adorable plush animals focus on teaching children that adopting a rescue pet is a feel good way to get a pet. They come messy and matted and injured and the child has to care for their pet properly to bring them back to health. Comes with a variety of tools to help bring their pets back to health!
We did a more thorough overview of the Rescue Runts here. This is one of our top picks for any toddler that loves animals.
THE LESSON: Teaches children that rescuing is the right thing to do as opposed to buying from a breeder.
Battat Vet Kit Clinic
Let kids get a feel for the veterinarian experience that pets have to go through with this adorable role playing activity kit just for the littlest pet lovers. The vet clinic kit comes in 2 options and comes with a pet carrier and 13 other veterinarian inspired pieces to allow your toddler to make believe they are a super-star vet brining their puppies back to health.
Another great gift for kids who love animals and you want to see if they might just be ready for the real thing.
THE LESSON: Learn how hard veterinarians work to care for pets and how much pets need to stay happy and healthy. It can also help build a sense of empathy.
Pretend Play Veterinarian Playset
With the included lab coat, this 31 piece veterinarian kit is as close as to the real thing your child can get to becoming a veterinarian. The kit includes a puppy and a kitten and all the tools needed to take care of them – from a stethoscope to a reflex hammer and more. This play set is a perfect gift for a child that is showing a true passion for caring for animals and will be a great addition to help them nurture that passion!
THE LESSON: Another play set that teaches what animals go through at a veterinarian visit and how hard veterinarians work to take care of our pets. They will learn caring and passion with this great kit.
Pretend & Play Animal Hospital
Another option with a veterinarian twist – but if your toddler really loves animals, we are sure they can never have enough play options! This one is a bit unique with a tri-fold board that has pockets to hold a lot of the core components of the play set. This toy also includes some fun options like a patient chart and even x-ray cards to help them understand how doctors can see inside a puppy with a special machine!
THE LESSON: Learning empathy and compassion and understanding how veterinarians care for our furry friends are a few of the lessons learned with this fun toy.
Animal X-Ray Set
Definitely a different option for toddlers who are animal lovers and never seem to have enough toys to nurture that passion. Animal X-Rays is an innovative educational toy that will engage your child for hours. It comes with real x-rays of a variety of animals from mammals to fish to birds. They will receive the x-ray and a matching image so they can see the “insides” of a specific animals.
They simply put the x-ray up against a window or you can purchase an option light box or table.
THE LESSON: Teaches children about how x-rays work and allows children to better understand how similar or different creatures are internally.