Parents can often be weary of getting a family pet or visiting the zoo again, but it is important to see that animals can play an important role in teaching children.
Animals as Teachers
Though animals make great companions and playmates, they also make great teachers. Children learn that a pet will love and accept them unconditionally, which helps a child learn self-esteem and trust. Research has also shown that social, emotional and cognitive development is enhanced when a child is able to care for a pet. Studies have also shown that owning a pet can actually encourage language and communication skills, because children often talk to their animals – confiding in them, showing affection, giving commands, and incorporating them into their pretend-play scenarios.
Some additional ways that animals can enrich your child’s life are:
Visit a park, zoo, farm or a family friend who has animals.
Let your child watch feeding, cleaning, and taking care of another living thing.
Teach respectful interaction with animals.
Animals are a great opportunity to teach young children respect and a general gentle demeanor. Take the opportunity to encourage your child to think about things from the animal’s perspective and then explain to them the proper treatment. Pulling on a dogs ears may seem like fun, but it hurts them.
Take a walk.
If you have a dog, go for family walks, or offer to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk. This is a great opportunity to teach your child responsibility, and patience while walking the dog, and taking care of its basic needs.
Create a Zen moment.
Watching fish swim around in a tank can reduce stress, and watching a pet as it runs around or nibbles on a treat can hold your child’s attention and create a calming effect.
See the loss of a pet or a sick or injured pet as a learning experience.
The way a parent reacts to a difficult or stressful event with a pet can really affect the way children will deal with death and other painful experiences in general. Use this opportunity to explain how death is a part of life, and express your own grief, which will help your child cope. When a pet is injured or sick, let your child help in nursing it back to good health.. It can teach them about the life cycle of living things, compassion, empathy and responsibility.
We hope that tips have been helpful and would love to hear any ways that animals have been a part of your child’s development.