Pets are fun, cuddly playmates for kids, but have you heard anything about pets and child development? Most children love animals and at some point they desire to have a pet of their own. Now, before you say, “no way are we getting a pet!” there are actually some major benefits that pets provide for children. Here are five things to consider related to pets and child development.
1. Pets are good for kids with autism
Studies have shown that children with autism have made substantial progress related to social interaction when they spend time with a pet. This article emphasizes that it is the most beneficial to introduce a new pet into the family when the child with autism is around 5 years old. There are even some charity groups in Canada that have programs that provide service dogs for children with autism who qualify for services. Pets are not only good for kids with autism, they can help all children develop proper social skills that can then be translated to human interaction.
2. Pets and child development, social development and responsibility
Pets are good for child development, social and emotional development and they help teach kids about responsibility. Pets can be a lot of work, and unless the child is given at least some of the responsibility to care for their pet the bulk of the work often falls on the parents. By giving your child the responsibility for their pet this will help them take care of other responsibilities like homework and prepare them for a future job. It is very important that you discuss responsibilities of having a pet before you get a pet. The child should be clear that they would be expected to do their part to care for the pet and not rely on the parents to do all the work!
3. Pets can be used as therapy aids
Pets provide comfort and security for children dealing with family crises or depression. Therapy animals are used in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, retirement homes, support groups and can be a wonderful therapy aid for kids as well. For children who have gone through a traumatic experience or lost a loved one, a pet can be a wonderful comforter and companion. Kids can even open up and share their deepest feelings with their pets that they might not be comfortable sharing with anyone else. Pets can help them through the healing process and remain a solid and secure part of their lives.
4. Pets facilitate reading practice
Pets make great reading buddies at home and at school. Some schools have reading programs that encourage families to bring in their dog during reading time so that the children can practice reading to a dog buddy. This can be a fun experience for kids especially if they get nervous reading in front of other kids and adults. Kids can read to their pets at home as well, or even to a stuffed animal.
5. Pets encourage more physical activities
When kids are interacting with their pets this means that they are not glued to the television or computer screens. Plus an added bonus to having pets is that it gets kids outside more! Whether it is to walk the dog, bring the rabbit out to munch on some fresh greens or to push the guinea pig around in a toy stroller, pets get kids outside to exercise. Any kind of physical exercise is good for learning and the brain and it is good for kids’ overall health!
There are a lot of big things to consider when making the decision to get a pet. If you decide that the benefits of pets and child development outweigh the time and energy commitment then you may be looking for a new pet soon! There are so many different kinds of pets to choose from, so take your time in deciding what type of pet is the best for your child and your whole family.