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I remember reading “Koko’s kitten” as a child and being absolutely amazed! A gorilla communicating with people! For those who don’t know Koko is a 38 year-old lowland gorilla who learned to speak American Sign Language when she was just a baby. Her teacher, Dr. Penny Patterson, began working with Koko as a Ph.D. project at Stanford. Koko now knows over 1000 signs and understand over 2000 spoken English words. Koko doesn’t just mimic, she understands. Dr. Penny Patterson gives an example in this 1980s early documentary of Koko when she says that after teaching Koko the sign for ring, Koko called it a “finger bracelet”.

Koko isn’t one of a kind, she’s just been given the oppurtunity to show us what animals are capable of. Alex the parrot is another great example. He possessed more than 100 vocal labels for different objects, actions, colors and could identify certain objects by their particular material. He could count object sets up to the total number six. Take a look at how Alex answers questions on shape, color and numbers.

You’re probably thinking to yourself what does this have to do with parenting. Well, teaching our children about nature is an important part of how they grow up and view the world. It’s really sad when young children only know that zebras, lions and monkeys live in the Zoo!  Get your child to learn that there’s more to insects than crushing them 🙂 This can sometimes be especially hard for city dwellers but there’s still a lot you can do to get your child in touch with nature, and not just the one in your backyard.

  • Take nature walks or explore your backyard 

    Talk about everything you see, leaves, plants, insects and birds. Take along an insect box or jar and bring back some snails or bugs to get a closer look at. Watch your 3 year old be fascinated as the snail comes out of it’s shell and be prepared to answer a whole lot of questions!

  • Go to the Zoo or petting farm

    Check out pictures of animals before you go. Talk about where they originally came from, their environment or what they eat.
  • Bring an animal home

    Having a pet teaches your child how to care for another creature as well as foster a sense of responsibility. It’s also a great learning experience! If you’re not ready for a cat or a dog, try a chameleon, parrot or hamster.
  • Read

    Books are always a great way to introduce your child to new things. Point to the pictures while you read, ask your child what she thinks is happening and why or let her draw her own paintings of the animals. The Hungry Caterpillar, From Head to Toe, Tarra & Bella and Koko’s Kitten are just a few ideas to start out with.
  • Watch documentaries    

    Yes, I’m saying watch some T.V. it can be educational. Most of us will never get a chance to go to Africa, the Amazon or Australia to see all these different environments and the animals that live there.  This can sometimes be the only way for children to see the animals in their natural habitat. 


Koko has a new kitten now that she just got this month. 🙂

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9DDO0Di3sk]

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Picture from Funny Pictures