Pets are the perfect way to expose your children to responsibilities, dependability and a whole lotta love.You might have a pet already or kids begging you for one to keep them company while COVID-19 keeps them home. Either way, you need to make sure you’re teaching your family how to be loving caretakers of your new addition.
Furry, feathered or finned, here’s how to teach your kids to be responsible pet parents.
- Start Small and Provide Education
- Encourage Gentle Hands and Compassion
- Make Sure Tasks Are Age-Appropriate
Start Small and Provide Education
The best place to start exploring the wonders of the animal kingdom with younger kids is in your backyard or local park. That way children can see creatures in their natural habitat and learn about active living beings.
Much like new dads rely on baby care books and video content, it’s helpful to have kids read all about their new type of pet. Children are also heavily influenced by watching others: if you have friends, family or neighbors with a friendly pet, you could show your child the animal and demonstrate how to gently approach and interact.
As with anything you introduce to a child, start slowly and reward good behavior. Get them involved with finding and adopting a pet, even vet visits. The moment of realization they have that animals need care, attention and kindness is one to cherish. For kids, we’ve found these small pets are the easiest for them to get involved with and take care of.
Encourage Gentle Hands and Compassion
There’s just something special about seeing a toddler cuddling their new best friend. As a father, to witness the bonding, companionship and even early training in empathy is heartwarming.
Lizard or labrador, we’ve made it easy to find the right pet for your family over in this blog here. Once you bring your new friend home, it’s understandable that the kids will want to smother it with love and affection.
Schedule petting time during your kid’s calmer moments, such as first thing in the morning. Sit down together and practice slow, gentle petting with whatever species your new addition is. Emphasize to your kids that caring for an animal is a privilege. If they’re too rough or excitable, make them sit down and wait until they can play calmly.
Pets are for life, not just for pandemics. So when life resumes, remember the best way to teach your children how to be responsible pet owners is to show them. When you’ve had a hectic day at work, make sure you still make time to walk the dog or brush the cat, drawing your child’s attention to this fact in a positive way.
With patience, persistence and positive reinforcement, children caring for pets can become second nature.
Make Sure Tasks Are Age-Appropriate
Although young children shouldn’t be given total responsibility for pet care, learning the basics can keep both them and your pets safe and happy. How much a child should be involved in pet care depends on their age, here are some tasks you could slowly introduce based on how young they are.
Toddlers – Age 5
- Help to put food and water in pet dishes, though parents should still be the ones to actively give food to the animals, especially if they’re of the canine persuasion.
- Responsible for cleaning and putting away pet dishes.
- Keep pet toys tidy and help with minor cleaning up (parent assisted).
- Help with brushing and grooming (skip if you have a reptilian friend maybe).
Age 5 – 10
- Put food and water in dishes, still with parental supervision as any animal can become excited and nip and bite when their dinner is involved. Fish can be fed unsupervised, but you knew that anyway.
- Help with cleaning and maintenance of pet areas, such as vacuuming pet beds, sweeping pet areas, washing and cleaning pet dishes.
- Grooming and possibly bathing, depending on the pet’s size (parent assisted).
- Walking and exercise depending on the pet’s size, they might need some help with a rambunctious puppy.
Ages 10 and up
At this age, all aspects of pet care can be carried out responsibly, unless you have a dog straight out of Beethoven. Your child should be taking on full care of cleaning up the pet’s mess, which will always be one of the hardest tasks to get a child to do. Understandably, but it’s an important part of pet ownership I’m afraid.
When you first get your family pet, make sure to praise your child every time a pet chore is performed without being prompted. No matter how big or how small the task! Try to reward your child with a pet activity that encourages feelings of love and connection with the pet.
Consistency and establishing a routine go a long way. As time goes by and your child gets better with handling the responsibilities of caring for a pet, you can ease off, but be sure to make a point of congratulations from time to time. Everybody likes to be told they’re doing a good job, especially when it’s because you’re being a caring and loving pet owner.
But most important, of course, is to enjoy all of the love and affection a little pet brings into your family. Even if that pet is currently scratching down your sofa or chasing your toddler around the yard. For more pet content, head over to the blog. We’d also love to see your companion and hear about how they changed your family.