If you’ve got pets, it’s crucial to teach your kids how to take care of them. It also teaches them so many important lessons, most importantly, the importance of taking responsibility. While your children shouldn’t be the primary care givers of your animals, there are so many things they can do to help out with your pets!
1. Set realistic expectations. One of the keys to successfully teaching children to care for pets, according to the ASPCA, is to set expectations that are realistic for a child’s age, personality, and developmental level. Every child is different so what one child can be expected to do, the next child might not be able to do. In general, a child around 2 years of age can help put away your pets toys, play with the pet, and help put out food. Preschool aged children can understand simple safety rules and can help change bedding or clean out cages. Older children can help feed, bathe, or clean up after pets and can even help walk them. Make sure that you are following up with your child. Don’t just assume the pet has been fed or that all jobs have been done!
2. Safety. Teach your kids rules for keeping your pets safe. Simple things like not feeding your pets people food that might be dangerous to them or to make sure they know that house doors need to be shut so your furry friend doesn’t run out. With dogs and children, teach them the importance of keeping your dogs on a leash when out walking.
3. Loving them. While little children might want to squeeze and hug your pets as tight as they can, saying things like “This will hurt doggy, but he loves it when you gently rub his belly like this.” We have a three year old son and a five year old dog. Our son loves our dog more than anything but it’s been a constant lesson for him to know his boundaries. Make sure your children know what they can and can’t do to their pets. This may seem obvious, but children need you to tell them step by step. Teach your children that animals like to be pet, scratched gently, etc. Also make sure that young children never carry pets because if they drop the animal by accident, it could mean death or serious injury. Adults always need to be supervising.
Other points to keep in mind…..
4. No bothering. Pets don’t want to be bothered when they are eating. Make sure children know not to take their food away from them.
5. No teasing. Teach your children not to tease animals, the same way we would not want them to tease other people.
6. Every animal is created differently. If you have animals at home, make sure your children know not all animals are the same. If you see dogs or cats while out and about, you must always ask the owner before you touch. Some animals are not friendly and don’t like children. It’s always important to ask and be cautious.
7. Start small. Start by giving your child a few very simple tasks to complete to help out with pets at home and if they excel at those, give them more things to help with.
8. Get a chart. Make a chart that has all of your child’s pet care tasks written on it. Let your child put a sticker by each thing every day once they’ve completed it.
Does your family have pets at home? What do your children do to help? If you have any tips or suggestions to add to our list, please leave us a comment below!