The decision to get a family pet – whether it’s a dog, cat, hamster or even a fish – is a big one. Perhaps you got a dog before you even had kids. Or maybe you decided to wait until the kids were at the “helping age” to introduce a pet to your house. However the pet got there, educating your children about animal care while they’re young can be a great way to teach kids about responsibility, introduce them to the concept of chores, and show them the incredible love and loyalty that pets can bring to your family.
So what can your kids do to help out with the family pet? Well in honor of “Love Your Pet Day” (February 20), here are eight ideas.
Most animals need to be fed once or twice a day. Try putting your son or daughter in charge of the feeding times. Create a checklist and be sure they mark off when they feed the pet. Also be sure they check for clean, fresh water daily.
For the most part, this one just applies to dogs (but we’ve certainly seen our share of cat walking too). If your child is old enough to take a spin around the block alone, put him or her in charge of dog walking at least once per day. It’s great exercise for them both, and a wonderful lesson in responsibility for your child.
Even at a young age toy clean-up is one thing kids can help with around the house. Each night, make sure the pet’s toys are put back in the “toy bin.”
Why not have your kids help poop pick-up? They’ve got to learn about those hard lessons somehow! LOL. In all seriousness though, this is probably best saved as a task for older children. Whether it’s picking up dog poop in the backyard or cleaning the cat litter box or fish tank, this is a great lesson in responsibility.
While your family may prefer to take your pets to a groomer for hair cuts, teeth brushings, nail clipping, etc., if this is something you do at home – even if it’s just baths – have your kids help. They can participate in bath time as well as regularly brush the animal too (if needed). Bath time can be especially fun in summer months when you can do it outside with a hose and bucket.
If you have a puppy, you know house training is a must! Show your kids how they can help house train the family dog or litter train a cat. Also, let your kids help teach your dog some of the basics commands such as come, sit, and stay. Show them how to talk to dogs and treat them nicely. You can also take your child with you to an obedience class and learn from the experts together.
Love and affection
Just like people, pets need attention and love too. Giving your pet hugs, kisses, rubs and walks are great ways to show how much you care. And giving them special treats now and then doesn’t hurt either!
When it’s time to get your family pet, have the kids help pet-proof the house. This could mean putting up a few barriers so the dog can’t leave the first floor or enter certain rooms. It also means checking for dangerous objects or chemicals that should be out of a dog’s curious reach. The same goes for cats and fish – your child can help you find a good litter box or fish tank location.
Remember, family pets are a fabulous way to teach your children about responsibility, love and loyalty. Overall, if your family has pets, be sure to get the kids involved. Whether they learn one or several life lessons, it’ll be lessons they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Do you have a family pet? If yes, what lessons do you believe your children have benefited from the most? ?