Having pets and children can be like combining chocolate and peanut butter or peas and carrots, whichever you prefer. Both parties can really benefit and learn from each other as long as responsible measures are taken. Kids can play a huge role in taking care of pets as long as you teach them how to properly care for their critters. However, keep in mind that being a pet owner is a for-life project. It requires daily attention to a family pet that can’t be ignored even for one day.
Loving the Hand That Feeds Them
Let’s face it, most animals are very food driven (most humans are too!) Pets take on a special admiration for the people that provide their meals so you might as well make that person your child. Taking over the feeding and watering chores provides your child not only with the opportunity to be put on a pedestal by their pet, but also can teach time telling and measuring skills. If you have your pet’s meals more or less on a schedule at the same time each day, teaching your kid about that schedule will help them learn how to use a clock. Pets are also great tellers of time too, so they will remind your child if dinner is being served a little late. Pet feeding can also become a lesson in math as pet’s food should be measured out each time and can help your child learn their fractions.
Don’t forget about watering your pet. Your child can easily be in charge of making sure the water dish is never empty. This can help teach awareness and paying attention to other creatures besides themselves. All of these pet chores can be presented as a science lesson when you teach your child the importance of why a body needs food and water.
No Better Exercise Buddy
Who better to provide exercise for your pet than your child who is a ball of energy? School children are great at dog walking and younger kids would love to play fetch, throwing the jingle ball for your kitty, or even placing the hamster in the exercise wheel. Not only is this a great bonding time between your children and pets, but it can also help teach your kid’s how to live a lifelong healthy, active lifestyle.
Don’t just put your child in charge of exercise; having them play with their critters is a great activity as well. Playing is not only enriching for your pets, but is also a great way for your child to use their imaginations and dream up new activities. I’ll bet making an obstacle course for their goldfish to swim through is an activity that they will never get exposed to without having pets around. Play also increases that animal human bond that creates a friendship like no other.
Making Them Look Their Best
This goes for both children and pets. Giving children the responsibility of cleaning up after their pet will help teach them how to clean up after themselves. Also, giving your child some of the critter grooming responsibilities will help children understand that it is important for them to freshen up their appearances as well.
Kids can be in charge of washing food and water bowls, changing bedding, and cleaning litter boxes, the yard, etc. It definitely isn’t the glamour jobs of pet owning, but it presents a realistic side that taking care of anything requires some dirty work.
Children can also be responsible for brushing or bathing pets. This will help them pay attention to details such as making sure the feet and ears get cleaned during a bath or that Fluffy’s tail gets brushed out along with the rest of her body.
Knowing When Something Isn’t Right
Children can also alert you when something isn’t right with your pet which, in turn, could be important to the animal welfare. If they are spending time with your critters, they will be the first to know when your pet’s behavior is off which could mean an illness or other issue. Always take their observations seriously and talk to them about what they think the cause of this change could be. They may be able to fill in some of the gaps if your animals does become ill or injured, such as reporting a tipped over garbage can that the pet may have gotten into.
Before the Pet Chores Begin
Having your children become involved in your pet’s lives is a great way to teach responsibility and create a lasting friendship. Before giving your child any of these responsibilities, you should make sure that both child and pet are ready for it. Don’t send your four year old out for a walk with a dog that tends to chase cars or let your six year old bath a kitty that hates water. It will take some training on both sides.
Also, pets that are fearful of children or children that haven’t learned to handle animals with care aren’t good candidates for these experiences. Again, this may take some time to get both parties on board or may have to happen with different critters or at a different time. Always use your best judgment before assigning any pet care responsibilities for your child and make sure that you’re a good role model of responsible pet ownership. It is best if children can understand why the chore needs to be done and how they are helping out their pet.
Pets and children can be a great combination. They can create a friendship that lasts a lifetime and many memories that will never be forgotten. Teaching your kid responsible pet ownership will help further develop responsibility for other aspects of their life, just make sure that both child and pet are ready for these new experiences.