pets and children

How pets contribute to the harmonious development of children


26 July, 2022

Studies in recent years, such as those by the renowned journal Anthrozoös, point out that families with pets have a much higher level of well-being, especially among children. As expected, researchers have found that, in general, children who live with pets have better overall health, are more obedient, are more physically active, are less temperamental, and have fewer learning gaps.

 

Find out in the following article:

Benefits pets have on children's development;

Suggestions from experts in the field;

Ideas for fun activities children can do with their pets.

 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry mentions in numerous publications that caring for a pet can help children develop social skills. However, specialists make a few observations.

 
  • Because very young children (under the age of 3-4) lack the maturity to control their angry impulses, they should be monitored at all times in the presence of pets and coached in handling various situations.
  • Children under the age of 10 cannot look after a large pet on their own. Parents need to be actively involved and support their young ones in the process of caring for a pet. Young children must understand what animals need, how much food they need and when, and why they must receive fresh water and affection.
  • Children need to be reminded, in a gentle, not scolding way, that animals, like humans, need food, water, affection, and space. So from the moment they decide to welcome a new member into the family, they should have their unconditional attention.
  • Parents are role models for young children. Children learn to own a pet responsibly by observing their parents' behavior.
 
Several countries, including Australia, have published guidelines recommending that preschoolers aged 3-5 years should: 1) accumulate at least 180 minutes of total physical activity per day, of which at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity such as walking; 2) have no more than 60 minutes of sedentary screen time per day and; 3) sleep between 10 and 13 h per day (Australian Government Department of Health, 2017). So a pet such as a puppy or cat can encourage and support these physical activities, carried out through play.

Benefits of pet ownership

  • Developing positive feelings towards pets can lead to increased self-esteem and confidence in a child's strengths. They feel that they are becoming more responsible and that they are doing their job properly, whether it's feeding their pet on time or simply deciding to give it time and affection.
  • Positive relationships with pets can help develop trusting relationships with others. They can be safe containers of secrets and private thoughts - children often talk to their pets as they do to their stuffed animals. They develop trust that they can later show towards other family members and become more open in sharing their thoughts and ideas.
  • A good relationship with a pet can also help develop non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. They offer lessons about life, including reproduction, birth, illness, accidents, and other unexpected moments.
  • Pets encourage a close connection with nature and can foster learning, understanding, and respect for other living beings. Children spend more time outdoors and understand different aspects of animals. 
  • Physical activity is stimulated through daily play with the pet or walks in the park if the pet is four-legged. The desire to run, jump or go around obstacles with the playmate increases.

For many people, pets are much-loved family members who provide support at many stages of life. A US study found that 63% of households with a child under 12 months had a pet, and an Australian study found a 10% increase in pet ownership around the time children start school.

But claims about the beneficial impact of pets on children go further, suggesting that pets can influence children's social skills, physical health, and even cognitive development, and that pet keeping is associated with higher levels of empathy. For children with autism and their families, caring for pets can help reduce stress and create opportunities to form supportive bonds.

Here are suggestions of fun activities your child can do with their pet:

  • The child can lie on the floor and the dog or cat can jump on him.
  • You and your child can hide and then call your pet to come to find you.
  • The baby and dog can race each other to a designated finish line. If necessary, you can run with your dog on a leash.
  • Throw a toy for the pet to retrieve.
  • You can have a lot of fun with a toy tied to the end of a rope, which the cat or dog will try to catch.
  • Older children can take part in a basic dog or cat training, even with their pet.
  • The child can play games like football and frisbee with the dog.
  • Some children enjoy the challenge of competing with a dog in agility or in games that involve speed and dodging various obstacles.
  • Your child can search the internet or the library for new tricks to teach your pet, such as rolling, shaking, sitting, and circling, all using training techniques recommended by experts.
  • Your child can have fun taking various photos or videos of comical poses of your pet.
  • Very often, the pet is a source of inspiration for the different tasks and homework your child has at school. The presence of pets can be found in different compositions, lyrics, or even drawings and practical materials.


Teach them to be kind to animals. They will grow up to be good to people.

 

Research has even found that, at least for adults, simply considering our pets as family members improve our well-being and help relieve stress. One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that pets fulfill a basic human need - touch. Petting, cuddling or any other form of touch from a loving animal can quickly calm and soothe you when you are stressed or anxious. The companionship of a pet can also alleviate loneliness, and most dogs are an excellent stimulant for healthy exercise, which can substantially improve your mood and alleviate depression.

 

We conclude with 3 keywords that describe the experience with a pet: love, loyalty, and affection. And the benefits to children's development are more than obvious. 

If, after numerous pleas from children, you were unsure whether or not to accept a new family member, perhaps the research results highlighting a wide variety of benefits will convince you.




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