Toddlers and pets: Teaching pet care

It is never too early to teach our children how to treat other living creatures whether it be humans or animals. However, once children reach the toddler stage, they can really begin to understand what caring for a living creature means.

My daughter will be 2 years old in June of 2008. My husband and I have been pondering ways to teach her more about pet care. We currently have a cat that my daughter is very gently with. However, she shows a lot of interest in caring for living things. So we have considered getting a new member to our family. What species-we’re not sure yet.

In the long run, teaching a toddler to care for a pet lays the foundation for responsibility not only for their actions but also to the world around them. If you already have a pet in your home and would like to help your child learn more about caring for it, try to include your child in that process.

Brushing the dog or cat is one simple task that a toddler can do with supervision and with a calm and gently animal. Also letting your child help with feeding and watering the family pet is another way to show how to take care of a pet. It is also an opportunity to teach the importance of food and water for animals as well as humans. Making connections back to our own activities helps a toddler understand how to care for a pet.

There are definitely ways to teach pet care to a toddler even if you don’t have a family pet in your home. Educating a toddler about animals in general will help them understand why it is important to care for those in our homes. Visiting places like the Zoo or even a local animal shelter allows the toddler to experience different animals first hand and get a feel for what it is like to be around one at home. Many toddlers just need to feel comfortable and not scared around new creatures.

If you find that your child is hesitant about a new family pet, consider starting small with a fish. This is an easy transition when adding a pet to the home. Your toddler can learn how to feed the fish but also the boundaries necessary for animals and creatures. Some toddlers insist on providing too much affection, and the lack of communication between animal and child can sometimes lead to dangerous outcomes. So a fish allows the child to understand the boundaries (i.e. the bowl or aquarium) and respect the needs of that pet.

It really can be a fun and rewarding experience when introducing pet care to your toddler. Watching your toddler learn to be kind to the animals, take care of them and then smile with pride for his/her accomplishment is definitely worth it. Teaching a child at a young age to care for other living things will help the child in the future understand his/her social responsibility in the community. It is a building block for their future and safety.

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