Pets make wonderful companions for children. Pets can also help teach children responsibility. Teach your children how to take good care of their pets by turning it into a game!
It’s very important to have basic coexistence rules when children and pets are at home. This way, their relationship can be a positive one.
Children need to understand first that pets are not toys. However, one way you can teach them how to take good care of their pets is by basing it on a game.
Children love to play, so this is a great way to demonstrate good habits and values.
Step 1: have fun while taking care
Taking care of pets is a fun activity that your children can enjoy. Admittedly, it’s a responsibility and they have to take charge, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. For this, you can assign them small tasks related to your pet’s care.
For example, 3-5 year olds can typically help you brush the pet. To begin with, get them to watch you so they learn how to do it carefully. When they are ready, give them the brush and supervise so they get experience and learn how to do it carefully - as you showed them.
Children can also change the water or feed the pet, so that they understand that animals need care and that they, as humans, are responsible for them. Again, begin by showing them, and when you feel they are ready, let them step in and supervise until they're capable of managing it on their own.
If you have a dog, your children can come with you when you go for a walk. They can run and play together by throwing a ball or a stick once you get to the park or square. It's not only important to be together and enjoy one another's company, it's also great to play sport together. This is very important for your animal for several reasons: it will help them to grow strong and healthy physically, as well as improve mental and emotional health, and they will more likely be tired by the end of the day - which means they will sleep well (and you probably will too!).
Step 2: be responsible while playing
It’s all about responsibility — one of the most important values we learn growing up. Taking care of a pet can develop some wonderful attributes in your children, such as being more sure of themselves, having higher self-esteem, or even feeling able to reach a goal. This is where games can help.
Create fun ways to achieve various goals in helping your children take responsibility of the family pet/s.
With your children, learn to teach your animal tricks to make various "chores" more rewarding. Alternatively, draw up a table with various responsibilities designated to the child/children, and provide some form of 'reward' suitable to your family once they have fed, changed the water, cleaned the litter, or taken the dog the walk, for example.
Provide ways to let them realise their progress along the way, but more importantly, teach them the reward of love; the feelings of connection, security and fun they experience with the family pet. This way they will learn about being responsible for another living creature and learn what it means to nurture and care.
Playing is one of the best ways for children to learn. They will love what they do without feeling forced to do it, so they will enjoy the time spent with their pet, which will in turn strengthen their relationship. For children, having a pet can be a wonderful adventure, at the same time being an important learning in responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Do you have games for your children and your pet? Feel free to share them with us!