Pets can be an important part of a child’s life. A child learns a lot from having an animal to care for. Just take a look at some of the lessons a child (or adult) picks up.
Responsibility – This is one of the first lessons that comes to mind, and likely the one that parents use to try to dissuade a child when he says, “Can we get a dog?” For some people, the responsibility of caring for an animal can become a huge chore that outweighs the joy of having that pet. But for those who stick it out, the pet is a good teacher and children who have a pet from an early age learn quickly about the responsibility of caring for an animal that’s dependent on them for food, water and other needs.
Some chores are fun, some aren’t – The early days of having a pet are usually not that difficult, until Fido doesn’t make it to the door or the gerbil cage has to be cleaned. That’s when the pet owner typically begins to weigh the fun of playing ball with the dog against the chore they’re facing now. Learning that some of the chores are fun (like playing with the kitten) and some aren’t (cleaning the litter box) is a fact of life.
Caring – Nurturing is not an instinct that comes naturally to all people. Pets are one way to teach that trait, or to bring it to the surface. Many programs around the world use pets in daycares, schools and nursing homes. People who have responded little to friends and families will instinctively reach for a dog or cat.
Patience – Pets teach us to be patience, and one of the best catalysts for this lesson is by teaching your pet tricks. Note that not all pets are conducive to this lesson.
Playing – It’s difficult to imagine that some people have forgotten how to play, but it’s true. Most kids don’t need to be taught to play, but a pet can remind us that life isn’t all about the chores. Sometimes it’s just time to build a terrific hamster cage or take a walk in the park – literally.
Science – Some schools are seeing the benefits of having live animals in the classrooms. Teachers are encouraged to choose a pet that can live at school in a cage of some sort. Those animals can then be used to teach life science, including topics such as length of gestation, development and eating habits. While those lessons are very limited in focus because students are learning about one particular kind of animal, expanding on that first-hand knowledge tends to be easier than if students learned only from a text book and photos.
There’s no doubt that allowing a child to adopt a pet is a big step, but it’s also a worthwhile investment. Remember to choose age appropriate animals and to select an animal that fits your child’s lifestyle and personality. For example, if you have a kid who’s always into building, consider a mouse or hamster and help him build an awesome hamster cage in his room. If you live in the country with room for a dog to run, a canine pal may be the better bet. If space is very limited, hermit crabs may be just what you need.
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