Kids and pets share special bonds. Just look at the way a child’s face lights up when a furry friend is near. Around 4 out of 10 children are born into families with domestic animals, and as many as 90 percent of all kids have pets at some point growing up according to Gail F. Melson, PhD, professor emeritus of developmental studies at Purdue University, in Indiana.

An article in Parents Magazine, The Benefits of Pets, points to several studies that suggest pets positively affect the lives and development of children. The benefits extend far beyond entertainment and fun. Pets can offer children emotional support, inspire responsibility, promote cognitive function, and more!

Below, we’ve listed a few examples of how pets enrich children’s lives and have positive associations:

Aid in learning

Due to the relaxing nature of many pets, stress levels are often reduced for children with domestic pets. Research from Bassett Medical Center in New York suggests kids who have a pet dog at home feel less anxious than children without a dog. According to The Benefits of Pets, children have the potential to learn and retain information better around animals because they do not feel the same amount of pressure about being judged. Therapy animals have been proven to help developmentally challenged kids learn, in particular.

Emotional support

According to research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children with pets may have less stress. Pets often calm children that feel sad, angry, or afraid. The presence of animal companions can reduce anxiety and stress, in particular. In studies, children themselves are the ones to reveal this. Not only do animals provide comfort, but children may also learn empathy from taking care of pets and becoming aware of the animals’ feelings.

Physical activity

Dog walking, for instance, is a fun way to encourage physical activity in children. In Australia and the UK, children aged 5-12 years with dogs were found to have a healthier body mass index (BMI) in those aged 5-6 years, due to walking and active play according to Medical News Today. Especially with the reality of child obesity, fun physical daily activities such as running and playing with dogs can positively impact a child’s whole life.

Social assistance

According to an NBC article, Here’s a Reason to Get a Puppy: Kids With Pets Have Less Anxiety, having pets around can also be a great icebreaker. Many children feel more comfortable joining other kids to play when pets are involved. The opportunity to play with the pet as well offers an incentive to be social.

According to The Benefits of Pets, pets make great talking points and can help children create friendships. By discussing their pets, children have something to talk about and can uncover a shared interest with other kids.