“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Happy No Housework Day! This holiday falls on April 7 every year. Let’s all take a break today from vacuum cleaners, scrubbers, brooms, mops, dusters and all housework today. Let’s kick back and do some fun activities with our children. This could include spending time with our pets, as we are celebrating “National Pet Day” this coming Sunday, April 11.
Young children absolutely love pictures of pets, books about pets, movies of pets and having age-appropriate pets of their own. I am sure we can all fondly remember our first pet whether it be a goldfish, rabbit, cat or dog. I warmly remember when my mother, a teacher in Opelika, brought home to her children a little dog named “Mutt” under her coat after school one day. She wanted to pleasantly surprise her children and she did. I was three years old when I received my little dog but even today, I still remember the feelings of warmth and love for my first pet.
Pets make people happy. They make people smile. We all like to pet a dog, stroke a cat or take time with a cute little puppy or kitten. From cute, furry, little animals to looking at an aquarium with fish gracefully swimming around, pets are just fun.
The purpose of this article is to share the benefits of having a pet with the young and old.
Pets help us interact with other people. Walking or carrying a pet is a natural conversation starter. Whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit or other soft, cute animals, pets provide a conversation starter. I have met my neighbors by walking my little dog, “Cookie”, every day. She has certainly made new friends for me.
Teaching your children to love, care and respect their pets equips them to care for people in their family and friends. As a classroom teacher, my young students and I have shared the responsibilities of caring for classroom pets. We have enjoyed learning about fish and sea life with salt water aquariums and fresh water animals in fresh water aquariums like a baby duck, Bill, who loved to waddle outside with the children at recess. As Bill grew bigger, we took him to a farm where classes could observe him when they came out for field trips. Also, my young students have loved observing the life habits of a hermit crab. Some of my team teachers have enjoyed having hamsters as pets where the children are responsible in feeding, cleaning the cage and in some cases allow the hamster to have exercise by having them roll around the classroom in their pet ball.
The retirement village I volunteered in had parrots that sat in bird cages in our hallways. I would love to hear the residents whom I served on a daily basis talk to the parrots that sat in bird cages. Too, the residents met new folks who also came along to meet and speak to the parrots.
Pets provide companionship and company. Man was not meant or made to live alone. Companionship prevents sickness, while isolation can cause loneliness which leads to depression in many cases. Taking care of a living animal whether it be dogs, cats, fish, etc., encourages one to emotionally feel needed and wanted. It gives one a purpose. We Senior adults as well as children can benefit so much from taking care of a pet.
Be sure to give your young children age-appropriate pet responsibilities. Young children can help you measure out the correct amount of food to feed their pets, fill up the cat or dog bowl with water, exercise their dogs by playing fetch or by taking them on daily walks. Too, under parents’ supervision, children can be assigned the responsibilities of cleaning out a bird cage, a pet kennel or cage or properly cleaning and helping parents change water in aquariums depending on the needs of the pets.
Observing how your children are interacting with their pets may require we as adults to intercede and step in to show them how to properly care for their pets. For example, spending time with your child to show them how to pet a cat or dog gently. I know with my classroom hermit crab pets, I had to show the students how to gently feed the hermit crab without disturbing the little crab. They listened and adhered to instructions well because they did not want to hurt the little hermit crab. Children want to take care of their pets. Praise your children when you see them being kind and loving to their pets.
3. Taking Care of a pet adds schedule, routine and structure to a day. Pets do require regular feedings. Health requirements of pets need to be met too. I have a dog. Dogs require a consistent schedule of exercise. Having a consistent routine of exercise not only keeps your dog calm and balanced but it keeps people calm, balanced and less anxious. This is important for us as we age. Too, this gets children outside to run and exercise in the fresh air with their dogs.
4. Having a pet decreases anxiety and provides sensory and stress relief. Touch and movement are natural ways to manage stress. In early childhood education, we teachers learn that young children need movement, hugs and pats on the back for encouragement in order to feel secure and stay calm. The same is true as we age. Stroking a dog, cat or other pets helps us to feel calmer and less stressed. Being less stressed lowers blood pressure.
5. Taking care of pets boost energy and vitality. I love to watch my senior friends engage in playfulness, exercise and happiness with their pets. This increases energy and is good cardiovascular exercise for the elderly person even if they are sitting down or in a wheelchair. The simple acts of pet-petting, cleaning, brushing and feeding pets provide mild activity which leads to more energy and a better mood. Young children taking care of pets provide hours of entertainment! Children don’t get bored and complain when they are taking care or playing with their pets.
6. Having a pet can increase confidence and self esteem in children and older people. Children love to talk to their pets and talk about their pets. I know in “Show and Tell” time in preschool, pets are truly the most popular subject they share about with their classmates. Elderly years can be lonely. The unconditional love of a dog, cat, parrot or other pets can stimulate us mentally and renew an interest in living life to the fullest in our senior years.
Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer