Pets provide an impetus for running and practicing motor skills. Walking a dog or running in the yard and throwing a ball are great ways to exercise the dog as well as for children to get away from sedentary indoor activities and move around. Small motor skills can be encouraged by allowing children to scoop food and pour water into dishes, and by helping to groom them. Depending on the child's age, parental supervision is recommended for both the child's and the pet's safety.
For children especially, pets can be wonderful social facilitators. Children are more prone to approach and interact with another child who is playing with a pet. In this way, a pet can be the bridge between a less socially outgoing child and other potentail playmates.
Pets can facilitate various aspects of emotional development such as self-esteem and a sense of resposibility. But remember: Parents teach responsibilities, pets just make a good vehicle for learning.
The responsibility a child has for her pet needs be age appropriate. At the age of three, a child can help to fill food bowls. By five, he can begin to take on some basic grooming tasks as well as to help clean the pet's living area. As children reach the mid-elementary school aged years, they can begin walking a dog independently, and as the teen years approach, the child will most likely be able to take on the bulk of the responsibility for a house pet. Keeping pet-oriented tasks age-appropriate is not only necessary for the safety of the pet, but for the child as well - both physically and emotionally.
As children grow, they may develop an interest in a specific type or breed or animal. Encouraging children to read about their favorite pet or to take part in obedience classes with a parent and the pet can all encourage a child's cognitive development as it sparks the desires for learning. Bringing the child along to a veterinarian appointment will give him a chance to ask questions about proper care and his pet's health.
With proper supervision, allowing children to research information about their pet on the Internet is another way they can learn about the pet's special needs and unique characteristics as well as to correspond with other owners of the same type of pets.
Pets as therapy:
Because of the special bond that often develops between pet and child, pets can sometimes fill the role of comforter. Since the relationship is non-judgmental from the pet's perspective, a hurting child may be more willing to initially trust a pet than a person.
Well, bringing a pet into the family is not a decision that should be made lightly. It first must be a commitment by the parents, not the child, as they will ultimately be responsible for the pet's welfare. Once that commitment has been made, however, and an appropriate pet has been found for the family, the joys and benefits of the pet relationship will last for many years to come.