Written by: Cally Worden
Did you know that having pet could enhance your child’s development? Various studies have proved that this rite of childhood passage does far more than teach children about responsibility and caring for other creatures. Irrespective of the nature of their pet – be it furry, slippery, or many-legged – your child’s cognitive, physical, emotional and social growth can all be encouraged through interaction with a pet. Here’s how.
The degree to which your child’s physical development is enhanced, does depend to an extent on the pet. Walking a dog provides a regular exercise pattern for your child, as does throwing a ball or stick for it in the park, and playing with a cat can be a source of great physical entertainment as well as good fun. Clearly a goldfish or a tortoise demand less physical input, but even these more pedestrian pets offer the chance to exercise fine motor skills, such as scooping and pouring food, unscrewing lids and opening food cans. And then there is the cleaning out routine. The kids should at least help!
Pet animals are often naturally accepting of humans, and this stimulates a form of social interaction that can act as a perfect practice base for real life. Children are often drawn more easily to other kids when they see them playing with a pet. This is a simple way to open-up a social interaction and a great learning experience for a small child when they experience it.
I’ve observed both my kids when they were tiny, pausing on a crawling session to pet our dog and, as they have grown up, interact more actively by offering treats and learning training commands. It’s fascinating to watch them learning about cause and effect via their clumsy social graces. One time the dog didn’t take lightly to having her ears pulled, and went off for a sulk in the corner. I don’t blame her, and although my son was confused at the time we talked about it and I’ve not seen him do it again. Naturally, it’s vital that any such interactions take place under adult supervision for safety reasons.
Taking on some degree of responsibility for the care of a pet is the ideal way to boost confidence in a child. The act of successfully keeping a pet alive and happy is great for the self-esteem and shows a child that they and their actions count.Â It’s important to keep tasks age-appropriate though, or you may be setting your child up for failure which will damage their self-esteem instead. It’s also known that the act of caring can release feel-good hormones in the body (of both adults and children). Caring for a pet creates a general sense of well-being and contentment.
Most kids love to learn and for many, the simple passive actions of caring for a pet are not enough. They want to know the Why, Where and How of it all. In this way the presence of a family pet stimulates cognitive enhancement in your child. It sparks a desire to learn. Reading about their pet and how to care for it is just the start. With certain pets, such as dogs, there is also the opportunity to learn about training and obedience. And with any pet there is usually a need to visit the Vets from time to time, which opens up a whole new arena of cognitive experiences for an inquisitive child.
Search the internet and you will find any number of organisations offering some kind of therapeutic experience involving animals. Pets are non-judgemental, and can be engaged to help a child learn to trust in life. For children who are struggling to heal from emotional scars from life experiences, there are pet therapies that promote nurturing in the self and other beings. This teaches children how to care for themselves and to allow deep feelings and emotions to surface and be released. While inviting a pet into your home does not have to be specifically about providing therapy, it’s clear that the mere presence of another life form around the home can bring happiness and joy to everyone, in more ways than you may first imagine.