Many families know how beneficial the unconditional love of a well-cared-for pet can be. Of course, while kids tend to think only of all the good parts of having a pet, parents know a lot of patience, time, and effort are also necessary. While involving kids in raising and caring for a pet is great, it’s ultimately up to the parents to make sure the experience is positive and that a pet receives the care they need for their entire lives.
For parents on the fence about welcoming a pet into their home, here are a number of benefits of doing so you might not have considered.
Why are pets so important to humans?
There are many reasons that pets are so important to humans. Pets, especially dogs, offer a number of health benefits, ranging from lowering our risk of heart attacks and strokes to alleviating stress and anxiety. They also offer invaluable companionship and unconditional love.
What types of pets are suitable for kids of different ages?
Before bringing a new family member home, many parents ask themselves what the best pet for a child is, especially based on their age. While different kids may be able to handle certain pets at varying times, in general, children under 10 can handle different pets than can those over that age.
- Children under 10: Children under the age of ten are generally less capable of handling and taking care of pets than older children. Birds, reptiles, and guinea pigs may be good choices for kids in this age range because they don’t have to be handled as frequently. Dogs and cats can do well in families with young children, but parents should be cautious about adopting small, fragile dogs or cats if they have very young or particularly rambunctious children.
- Children over 10: Dogs and cats make wonderful family pets, but parents should teach their children of any age how to best treat pets of any size. Rabbits are also a good and relatively popular pet choice for kids on the older side, as they are very loving and bond with their humans, but require a fair amount of care and can startle or injure themselves easily.
While age is an important factor, so is a child’s individual personality. Even if you have a young child, if they’re calm, they may be capable of handling a more fragile pet, like a small dog. Or, even if they’re older, they may have a lot of energy and need a companion to match their activity level.
When adopting an adult pet, it’s also important to consult with the staff at a rescue or shelter to see if that pet is good with kids. Rescue pets especially come from a variety of backgrounds, and not all will do well with children of any age.
How do pets contribute to children’s physical, social, and emotional development?
Pets not only offer love but can actually contribute to children’s development in a number of ways, including:
- Social and emotional development: Nurturing a pet helps children practice empathy, compassion, and caregiving skills. In fact, children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills, and self-esteem. What’s more, a family pet may build bonds within your family: Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges a common bond among siblings.
- Physical health benefits: Pets are also good for children’s (and adult pet parents’) physical health. Research shows that children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma, and playing with dogs may help lower blood pressure. Kids with pets get outside more to go for walks, run, and play – and enjoy all the associated health benefits of those activities.
- Mental health benefits: Cuddling a pet reduces stress, loneliness, and anxiety.
- Academic benefits: There may also be academic benefits associated with having pets. For example, emerging readers often feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet.
- Benefits for children with special needs or disabilities: While having a pet dog has plenty of benefits in and of itself — for example, research shows that children with autism also uniquely benefit from having dogs, as they can help them learn responsibility and companionship — service and therapy dogs can benefit kids with special needs or disabilities.
How can pets help in teaching responsibility to kids?
Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility. When kids help pets not only meet their basic needs, such as giving their pet food, but also help them thrive through playing with and giving them exercise, they learn the power they have to help another living being — and potentially harm them should they fail to do so.
10 Reasons Pets Are Good For Kids
To summarize, here are the top 10 reasons that pets benefit kids:
- Children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.
- Playing with dogs may help lower blood pressure.
- Kids with pets get outside more to go for walks, run, and play – and enjoy all the associated health benefits.
- People with pets require fewer doctor’s visits.
- Emerging readers often feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet.
- Nurturing a pet is an acceptable way for kids to practice being caregivers.
- Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility.
- Children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills, and self-esteem.
- Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges an additional common bond among siblings.
- Cuddling a pet reduces stress, loneliness, and anxiety.