Learning and fun while caring for pets
Pets often bring much joy and laughter to families and involving your child in caring for them can be a great opportunity for learning and fun. With your help, your child can learn new words and concepts and a sense of importance as they care for something that is part of their family.
Learning new words
Pets come in many shapes and sizes and are cared for in different ways. Use descriptive words about the feathers, fur, skin or scales that you can see or touch. Involve your child in the brushing of your dog or cat or the dusting of the chickens. For pets with fur, you might like to count the strokes as you brush or talk about how the fur feels, introducing words like rough, soft or wiry.
Any pet requires some sort of care, and you can share the instructions on food packaging or the details on any medicine and what they mean, or why it’s important to do what you’re doing. This is true even if it’s just taking the dog for a walk.
Opportunities for conversation
Talk to your little one about the food your pet eats, help them refill the water bowl or involve them in getting food ready. All these tasks not only build vocabulary but also instil a sense of responsibility and caring with your child. Then remember to add washing hands into your routine – you can’t practice that one enough!
Pets are also wonderful for children to talk to. Plus some children find great comfort in singing to or patting their pet when they are upset or anxious so always encourage these conversations even if you’re not part of them.
Don’t forget, supervision and safety are vitally important when small children are interacting with pets so be aware of activities if you’re not directly a part of the conversation.
Books that focus on pets
A fish out of water, by Helen Marion Palmer
Harry the dirty dog, by Gene Zion
My cat likes to hide in boxes, by Sue Sutton and Lynley Dodd
Pig the pug, by Aaron Blabey
They all saw a cat, by Brendan Wenzel