Being a pet owner and a parent is definitely a full-time job. The great thing about it is that you can use having a pet as a teaching opportunity. There are a lot of great benefits that come from teaching children to care for a pet. It doesn’t really even matter what kind of pet it is.
Don’t stress over it too much because it can be really natural and organic. However, there are some things you can do and steps you can take to make the task more effective.
We have put together a few helpful tips when it comes to teaching children to care for a pet. We even start at the very beginning for those of you that don’t have a pet yet.
How to Teach Children to Care for a Pet
Choose a Pet
If you are really at the very beginning of this journey then you probably don’t have a pet yet. Part of figuring out how to teach a child to take care of a pet is to choose a pet. This is going to be a personal preference and any pet will do. Just make sure you choose one that fits into your family’s lifestyle and time constraints.
Choose Age-Appropriate Tasks
One of the biggest tips we have for you is to choose age-appropriate tasks for your child or children. You don’t want to give a three-year-old the task of cleaning the fish tank or cleaning the litter box.
We have broken this down into three different tasks and will tell you about the age groups that this works with.
Teach Them to Be Gentle
If you have a small child such as a toddler through preschoolers the first thing you need to teach them to be gentle with the pet. It doesn’t matter what kind of pet it is. The children must learn that they are a living being that can be hurt and they need to be gentle.
Even if your pet is a fish then teaching them to not knock on the glass or shack the tank is important.
But with dogs and cats, you can teach a younger child not to chase the pet or pull their hair. You can also teach them how to appropriately pet and touch the pet. Use a phrase such as “be gentle” along with modeling what that looks like and then let them try.
This is the very foundation of caring for a pet.
Let them Help You Feed and Water
Once they are going into the late preschool years or entering kindergarten it is time to let them help with feeding and watering. Teaching them the appropriate amounts and the time of day to feed the pet is a great place to start.
Let them help you every time you do this task. If you are feeding the fish then show them how much food to pinch in their fingers. Then guide them to put it gently on the top of the water.
If you are feeding and watering the dog and cat let them measure the food and put it in the bowl and talk about how important freshwater is as you fill the water bowl.
As your child grows older and more confident in the task they can start doing this alone. Of course, you will want to supervise for a while to make sure the pet is not overfed. Your child also may need help filling the water bowl until they can reach the faucet.
Walking or Grooming
Older children can start taking on bigger responsibilities like the walking and grooming of the pet. Cats and fish are not walked so this is more for dog owners. However, cats do need to be groomed from time to time and fish tanks need to be cleaned twice a month.
These are tasks that older elementary and middle school kids can do with ease. If you live in a busy neighborhood then you may need to accompany them on the walks until they are a little bit older.
But there is no reason older children can not be taught to clean a fish tank or bathe the dog. These tasks are an important part of pet ownership and should not be neglected.
Gently teaching them over the first few times of doing the task and then letting them try on their own with supervision is a great way to teach. It is also a great way to spend time together.
Model With Your Actions
While all of the tips and ideas above will help teach your child to care for a pet the key is you, as the parent, model with your actions. Our kids watch everything we do. Sometimes that isn’t a good thing.
But if we are taking care of our family pets in the best way we can our kids will see that and more readily listen to our words and our teaching.