Whether it’s a fish, a ferret, a rabbit, a dog or a cat, children tend to want to have an animal in their lives. This is great, when you consider that animals can improve children’s development.
However, while getting a puppy for Christmas is most children’s dream, it’s a big commitment. Thankfully, there are many other ways to give children the benefits of being around dogs and other animals without families taking on the responsibility and expense of being a dog owner.
Child care centres can offer children opportunities to interact with animals and experience the unique relationship that only a child and animal can have. Many centres now have pets that belong to the centre. You could opt for something low maintenance like a fish, but even rabbits and guinea pigs are quite easy to care for.
Animals improve children’s development in many ways, so whichever animal you choose there is a range of benefits you can expect. Here are just five to consider.
- Social and emotional skills
Interacting with animals helps children to work on their social skills with no pressure. After all, animals are easy to talk to! In addition, spending time with animals can help children to develop a strong sense of empathy. Of course, understanding others’ feelings is a vital skill to learn.
- Increase self-esteem
The love and attention bestowed on children by animals feel pretty special. Research has shown that when children care for animals they are more likely to have high self-esteem which in turn improves a range of outcomes throughout their lives.
- Learn responsibility
Animals don’t care for themselves, and children are more capable than perhaps we give them credit for. Assign different children or groups of children a task each week and rotate throughout the class. Children can learn the responsibility of caring for an animal who relies on them to be fed, given water and cleaned on a regular basis. Responsibility is a valuable skill for life.
Did you know dogs can help children with their literacy skills? Organisations like Story Dogs help over 1505 children with their reading each week by enabling children to read to dogs. According to their website, “the non-judgmental, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic and helps children relax, open up, try harder and have fun reading to a friendly and calm dog.” Now that’s amazing!
If a pet for your service sounds like a great idea, this resource from ACECQA could help you choose one that will work.