Spending time with cats, dogs, and other animals, as well as animal-related activities like horse riding, can have a lot of benefits for your child’s development — plus their happiness. Below, I’ll take you through the benefits of animal interaction, and suggest some of the ways you can introduce your children to different animals early in life.
Studies have suggested that pet ownership can help with child and adolescent emotional, cognitive, behavioural, educational and social development (). That means that interacting with animals can be great for developing a child’s social skills, as they can practice conversation with a non-judgmental partner. This can also help them develop emotionally, giving them better self-esteem and confidence. Not only will these make it easier for your children to make friends, but they’ll be more likely to perform well at school — so it has educational benefits as well! Mostly, though, animals can help children feel less lonely as they make great companions.
Looking after a pet or animal can also teach children about responsibility, as they need to be fed and cared for, and taking them out for walks can help keep your kids fit and healthy too. So, there are lots of reasons to introduce your children to animals early in life.
Households that keep pets allow children to have 24-hour access to a furry friend, so it’s worth considering adopting dogs, cats, or small caged animals that don’t mind being handled, such as domestic rats. However, taking on a pet is a big commitment and not an option for every household, so it’s important to take the decision seriously and only adopt a pet if you know you can look after it properly. That means having enough food and toys, but also time to spend with them. Alternatively, there are a few other ways you can help your kids grow up around animals without committing to a full-time pet.
If adopting your own pet isn’t an option, you could consider volunteering at an animal shelter to help care for those that don’t have families to live with. Many are looking for responsible volunteers (such as well-behaved children) to walk their dogs and play with them for a while, so your kids can interact with their favourite animals without the pressure of full-time care.
An animal-based hobby, such as horse-riding, is another great way to interact with animals and get your children out of the house into the fresh air at the same time. As well as learning how to ride, they will also learn how to care for a horse and form a bond with them, so it’s ideal for teaching about discipline and having respect for animals.
If your children are shy around animals, it can help to have them observe in their natural habitats for a while. Animals should never be touched as it can be unsafe to do so, but you can leave food out in your garden for birds and squirrels then watch them feed from a distance. You could encourage your kids to keep a diary of what species they see and what food each one prefers.Animals are great for a lot of reasons, and they can even help your child develop into happy, healthy young people. The tips in this guide can help you think of new ways to get your kids interacting with animals even if you can’t take on a pet.
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