Your kids pestered you for ages, and you finally agreed to let them have a pet. How can you use your new furry — or finned, or scaly — friend to teach your child vital life skills?
Tending to an animal can teach an enormous amount of responsibility. You need to evaluate your child’s maturity level and provide guidance, at least at first. Here’s a handy guide if you decide to add a non-human animal to your family.
1. Start Small
Your 4-year-old cries for a pony. However, even if you live on a homestead with barn space, you might not want to go from zero to 100. Each year, over 1.5 million pets come to shelters as owner-surrenders. For your sake and that of animal welfare, keep your child’s first pet small.
Goldfish make excellent starter pets, and they’re remarkably intelligent — you can train them to do tricks. Hamsters or mice are additional wise choices. Consider your noise tolerance before adopting a bird — they can get quite vocal even if they aren’t mynas.
2. Feeding Time
You need to tend to your pets’ food needs — why not make doing so a learning experience? You can make cleaning the kitty’s bowl and refilling their water part of their daily homeschool schedule if you intend to embrace this style of learning for 2020.
You can use your animal’s feeding time as a teachable moment when it comes to health and nutrition. You don’t want to overfeed your furry friend — talk about what consumption of excess calories does to both pets and humans. If they must follow special diets, talk about how your food choices influence how your body feels.
3. Brushing And Combing
Most pets adore the attention associated with brushing and combing. You can show your child how to do this activity gently by reminding them how they don’t like snags when you style their hair. While it’s okay to let elementary-age children groom your german shepherd, save things like nail clipping for adults.
4. Tidying The “Fur”-Niture
Like it or not, pets make a mess. They shed everywhere and dust and dander can become trapped in your furniture and carpeting. You already teach them self-reliance by having them clean their rooms.
Take things a step further by teaching them the responsibility for cleaning up after their pets. While your youngest may not be able to manipulate the vacuum cleaner, you can find a child-sized broom set to let them sweep any hardwood or tile floors. They can also run a lint roller over the furniture.
5. Clean Up Duty
If you do decide to get a puppy, you’ll need to keep your yard clear of land mines. Why not have your littles do doggy duty, well, duty?
You do need to keep your little one’s hands safe, so invest in a quality scooper set to make their job less germy. If you have a feline, your kids can come in handy if you become pregnant. Expectant mothers shouldn’t scoop the box due to the risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasite that lives in feline feces.
6. Calm The Storm
When the angels start bowling in the summer sky, your pets might fly into a panic. They need someone to comfort them — a task children of any age can tackle. When the thunder rolls, let your little ones spend time with your quivering puppy or kitty.
However, before you leave them with an agitated animal, teach them the basics of the language. They should know that if their pet starts growling or hissing, this indicates that the creature feels upset, and they should dial back the affection. Spend time observing your children playing with your puppy or kitty and intervene if your children push the limits.
7. Walking And Exercise
If your children are old enough to walk to school, they can take Fido for a stroll. Get them into the habit of doing so by making dog-walking a family affair. Leash up your pooch after dinner so that you can practice the route. You’ll all benefit from the fresh air and exercise.
Kitties, too, need exercise, even though it sometimes seems like they only want to sleep. Provide a variety of cat toys and ask your kids to engage them in play.
8. Keep An Eye On Their Health
Most kids adore spending time with their pets. As such, they’ll notice any suspicious lumps, most likely before you do. Teach your children to let you know if their pet shies away when they touch a sore spot. While it’s never fun to take a visit to the veterinarian, it’s far better to fix small problems early than let them become life-threatening.
Teach Your Kids Responsibility Through Your Pets
Your children can learn substantial responsibility from taking care of their furry friends. Help guide them in the right direction with the tips above.