We all know that a pet can make a wonderful addition to any family, but did you know that pets are also good for your child’s development? The benefits of growing up with pets extends well beyond having a cute pet to snuggle up with!
Interestingly, growing up with pets can have a positive impact on our emotional and physical wellbeing in a number of ways! Pets teach us how to have empathy for creatures outside of ourselves, to be responsible as we care for their needs, and can even increase our self-esteem and self-confidence. A 2017 study found that having pets as a child is linked to higher self-esteem, cognitive development and social skills. Read on to find out more about how pets can benefit children’s development.
1. Building relationships with pets helps us build relationships with others
From our earliest days, the relationships we form with others (both humans and pets!) significantly impacts how we build and maintain relationships throughout the rest of our lives. Having a family pet can help us develop trusting relationships with others, as we build strong bonds with our furry friends.
2. Pets are perfect secret-keepers!
There are some things we just don’t want to say aloud. Pets are the perfect non-judgmental recipients of our secrets and private thoughts. In the same way that children might talk to their stuffed animals, pets make the perfect substitute for story-telling and secret-keeping. Pets offer children an outlet for their emotions, and the opportunity to express themselves without fear of judgement or reaction.
3. Pets teach children responsibility
Whether we’re filling their water bowl, giving them a bath or taking them on their daily walks, caring for pets can instil an important sense of responsibility in children. We all need to feel purposeful and needed, and pets offer the perfect opportunity for children to start helping out early on.
4. Pets connect us to nature
Living in cities and connecting solely with other people can leave us disconnected from the natural world around us. Caring for another living creature who is different from ourselves can instil a sense of respect for other living things, and nature at large.
5. Pets can reduce stress
Cuddling with our pets can help reduce stress, loneliness and anxiety. When we stop to pet a cat or snuggle on the couch with our dog, we take a moment to share with our animals without worrying about external stressors.
6. Pets teach kids empathy
When we’re given the responsibility of caring for another living being, it forces us to look outside ourselves and think about the needs of others. It also teaches kids to read non-verbal cues in others. For example, kids need to ask themselves, “is the pet hungry?” or “is he/she cold or hot?” and then react accordingly. Having to think about the needs of others helps kids’ develop their natural empathy, a skill that bullies can sometimes lack.
7. Pets keep us active
Having pets is also beneficial for kids’ physical health. Having a dog means that kids are likely to spend hours in the backyard running around and playing fetch with their furry companion. Dogs need to be taken on daily walks to keep happy, fit and healthy. Older kids can be tasked with taking Fido for his daily walk - meaning that both Fido and your child get some fresh air and a chance to stretch their legs.
8. Pets are good for our physical health
Growing up with pets also means we’re less likely to develop common allergies and asthma. Being around all that dog hair day-in and day-out has finally paid off! On top of this, having a dog can reduce blood pressure and pet owners are even said to require fewer trips to the doctor’s office.
9. Pets provide educational experiences
When we have a treasured childhood pet, we experience the cycle of life with them. We watch them grow from a puppy to a full-sized dog, take them to the vets when they’re sick, and unfortunately mourn when they pass away. These are super important lessons in life that pets can help children learn from a young age.
10. Pets teach us verbal and social skills
You might’ve noticed that toddlers tend to have great conversations with their furry friends, even before they’re really able to construct proper sentences. In this way, pets not only provide emotional and physical benefits, but also help children learn valuable social and verbal skills as they confidently babble away with their pets.
Pets are often also good listeners for children learning to read. Kids mightn’t feel comfortable reading aloud to others, but can be found reading diligently to their pets, and even showing their pet the pictures to make sure they’re following along.