Are you considering getting a pet for your child? Raising a new animal friend brings a lot of joy. However, when deciding which pet to choose, it is important to consider aspects other than your own needs and wishes. In this article, you will find interesting information about the advantages of getting a pet, how to choose one responsibly, and last but not least how to even ‘adopt’ an animal from a park or your own garden.
Studies show that pets positively affect mental and physical health. For example, children can have more physical exercise with a dog as it is necessary to take them for a walk. Living with pets also strengthens children's immunity. Sometimes, we make the mistake to think the best thing for children's health is a super clean environment. However, it is the very opposite. Children need to come in contact with the things we consider dirty because that's what makes their immune system stronger. Petting a pet also lowers stress and anxiety. It even makes us feel happy because it produces endorphins a.k.a, the happiness hormones. That is one of the reasons why animals are used for therapies. For example, dogs can help children with an autism spectrum disorder whom have problems with communication. They can communicate with dogs on a level that suits them better.
As you’ve just read, living with a pet has a lot of advantages, but one shouldn’t choose a pet solely based on their own preferences. What should be considered a major priority is whether the animal is going to be happy at your home and whether you can help it. This way of thinking helps raise a generation that cares deeply about our planet's future. For this reason, children should also be a part of the decision process; teach them to make choices responsibly and to love all living things.
And how does such an approach look in practice? For example, if you want to get a new dog, you ought to consider whether you have sufficient space for it and whether you can spend enough time with it. If you just tie it by the doghouse outside for the whole day, it won't be happy at all. You also shouldn’t support buying a dog at puppy mills, where dogs are being bred just for profit and tend to live in horrible conditions. Another opportunity to help an animal is to adopt a chicken from a factory farm or to get your next pet from an animal shelter. You should secure good living conditions for all of these animals. If you are not able to provide pets with a home where it is satisfied, you can find another less demanding pet like a hamster or a fish.
How else can you take care of an animal in a way that makes you happy and helps another living creature? Try to ‘adopt’ an animal at a park or in your garden together with your child. Choose an animal you like, name it, and start taking care of it. For example, you can ‘adopt’ a pair of blackbirds that return to your garden each year. Maybe it isn't the same pair of blackbirds, but to your child they will just be Freddie and Frida again. If the summers are quite dry, you always make sure they have something to drink. You can even have your child create a bath for them with old paper plates and together watch the birds happily bathe. During the winter, you can fill their bird feeder with something delicious.
Do you prefer four-legged pets? Then you can invite a hedgehog to your garden! Do not forget to make a hole in your fence so that it can enter. Place some thin sticks and leaves close to the hole so the hedgehog has building material for its nest. Before the winter, you can also make it a shelter out of a shoebox where it can spend the winter.
Other helpful creatures such as earthworms can also be considered pets. You can put them in a wormhouse in the garden or home and observe how they convert organic waste into fertile soil. Put grass, leaves, wood shavings or soil at the bottom of the wormhouse as bedding. Then add the earthworms and organic waste like vegetable and fruit scraps, teabags, pieces of bread, etc. For more details, try to search for ‘vermicompost’ on the web.
We often hear disturbing news about climate change or about the extinction of insects and other animal species. This news can be really sad and should rise us to action. So what can teachers and parents do for the environment? We can, for example, teach and encourage children to love nature and responsibility for all living things. The conscious care for a pet, no matter if it's a dog or a blackbird, is one of the ways to do it.
Author: Ladislava Whitcroft, Educational Specialist at Lipa Learning
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