Pets and Families
A Guide on How a Family Pet Can Help a Child to Learn
Pets and families go hand-in-hand; a pet can make a great addition to a family bringing with them a loving nature, the ability to make all members of the family laugh and an opportunity for parents to teach their children the importance of responsibility, routine, empathy and consideration.
Aged 5 and Under
Once a child understands how to interact with the family pet, they can start to be taught to help out with looking after the animal. The level of responsibility that a child is given should depend on their age. The tasks set for children under the age of 5 should be minimal and always undertaken with adult supervision, such tasks can include helping an adult to groom or brush the animal, helping to put the pet’s toys away, observe the parents putting the pet’s food into their bowl and helping to clear-up the food bowls once the pet has finished eating.
Aged 5 – 10
For children between the ages of 5 to 10 years the level of responsibility can increase slightly and as the child gets older they can start to do some of the tasks mentioned earlier on their own. They should have an increased involvement with grooming, tidying the pet’s toys and tidying the pet’s food area; they can also start to put food and water into the pet’s bowls but it is imperative that they do so under adult supervision as pets can sometimes snap or nip when they get excited about dinner time.
Aged 10 and Over
From the age of 10 onwards a child can start to undertake all of these tasks on their own with the additional responsibility of cleaning the pet’s toilet area. This will be the task that a child will be most unwilling to do but it is important for them to continue to do this as it will teach them to persevere. If a family has a dog then a child over the age of 10 may be able to start helping with the exercise routine that the pet has, such as becoming involved with taking them on walks.
As a family’s child comes into his/her teenage years they should be able to walk the dog without adult supervision. They may start to lose focus of their responsibilities in looking after the family pet as there can be many distractions such as after school clubs, sports teams and other extra-curricular activities that may start to take up their time. If this happens then it can be a good idea for the parents to sit down and have a talk with their child to explain why looking after the animal is important. If a child is doing too much during the week then it can be a great idea for the parents to reduce the level of pet chores between Monday to Friday but increase them on the weekend.
An Invaluable Member of the Family Unit
Whilst having a family pet can help to teach children about responsibility and empathy, it will also provide them with an invaluable friend who is always there for them when they are growing up. Many children below the age of 12 will talk to their cat or dog as if they are their peer and it can be a great way for them to talk about their worries or feelings. If both pet and child are integrated and raised in the right way then the pet will become one of the child’s best friends and an invaluable member of the family unit.