According to this article published by the Michigan State University Extension, there are many benefits to owning pets, especially for children. Most importantly, it teaches them responsibility. Pets can become pretty vocal when their needs aren’t being met, which is why they are great for teaching responsibility – they are hard to ignore.
However, a common complaint among parents and caregivers is that kids often renege on their promises to take care of their pets, whether it’s taking them for regular walks or simply filling their food or water bowls. All too often, the parents or caregivers are the ones left with the doggie doo on their hands, so to speak. For some, the hassle far outweighs the benefits.
Yet, pets play an important role in kids’ lives, especially for instilling trust and compassion and for their effect on children’s general sense of well-being. It would be sad to deprive them of the experiences that pets can give them out of fear that they won’t take responsibility for them.
So how do you get kids to fully engage with the day-to-day reality of taking care of their pets? Here are some handy tips:
- Incorporate their pet duties in their current home chores: if their chores include emptying the dish washer or setting the table at mealtimes, make washing and filling their pet’s bowls a part of that routine. Similarly, if they have to take out the trash every day, have walking the dog become part of that routine where they are encouraged to grab the leash and the dog on the way out. The more the added responsibilities fit in with their regular daily routines, the easier it will be for kids to continue doing them.
- Make use of technology: it’s been proven that the best way to teach and engage children is to make the learning experience fun by turning it into a game. Kazutime and Kazu Adventures are apps that are aimed at helping kids aged 3 to 8 learn vital life skills such as time management, basic reading and math, preparing for bedtime, taking care of pets and many more. Kazutime also has a dedicated pet portal called “Pet Care Central” aimed at making it easier for kids to take responsibility for their pets.
- Make pets a part of the family: by housing pets in a central part of the home, rather than tucked away in a child’s bedroom where neglected pets can go unnoticed, pet accountability can become easier to manage. Place the hamster or bird cage, cat or dog bed where the whole family has access and make pet chores a family effort where children learn good habits by example and through repetition. Sharing the load can turn pet care from a burden into an exercise in family bonding and prevent a child from being constantly singled out and nagged over their lack of responsibility.
- Friendly reminders: Owning pets is fun but sometimes children need to understand that taking proper care of them is a serious responsibility. Download or get your child to draw up a colorful pet care chart where they can be reminded what and when pet duties need to be performed. This makes keeping track of pet chores easier and can be reinforced with a reward system if the child in your care needs encouragement to meet their obligations. Also, couch reminders in a less nagging manner by saying things like: “I can take you to your play date once you’ve taken Fido for a walk” or “If you’d care to scoop out the kitty litter, we can all watch a movie when you’re done.”
Do you have any other helpful tips on how to encourage kids to take responsibility for their pets, or do you want to share a pet care story with us? Contact us, we’d love to hear from you!