Chances are if you have a kid, you also have a pet. And if you don’t have a pet, you probably have a kid begging you for one. When my 11 year old was much younger, she begged me for a dog for months- and not just regular begging, more like “her life was going to be over if she didn’t get a puppy” begging. Every.single.day. I finally budged and 7 years later we still have our doggy. As the kids have gotten older, I have started giving them over more responsibilities when it comes to pet care. I have been asking my oldest to do more, since she always says it’s her dog. Having a pet is a rewarding addition to any family, but can be stressful if all of the responsibilities fall on one person (like mom!). Making sure your kids are doing their fair share is key to keeping a happy balance, and these tips on simple ways to teach kids to care for pets will make it easier on everyone!
Once the novelty of having a pet wears off (which it definitely will!) it can become a challenge in order to keep them involved and accountable. Planning, parental involvement and open communication can make pet ownership a positive experience for the whole family!
Begin by learning about your new pet
Much like new moms rely on baby care books, it’s helpful to have kids read all about their new type of pet. There are quite a few good books available, and also plenty online. Doing some research before you get your pet or learning more about them afterwards, will help to teach your child what sort of care they need.
Allow them to come to vet appointments, if appropriate
When possible, let your kids (the older ones) come to the vet’s office with you if it’s for something routine. By allowing them to come along, they can watch what the doctor will do while they perform an exam or administered any vaccines that were needed. This can be something that can really helped them feel like they were responsible for our pets and involved in their care and health. Obviously this tip may not be appropriate for all aged kids or pets though- if you have a pet that gets really nervous at the vet and may act out, it would probably be best for the kids to stay home, but if you have a nice calm pet, this can be a great way for them to learn more about what a pet needs to be healthy.
Assign responsibilities for your pet
Once kids are school-aged like mine, it’s reasonable to expect them to shoulder some pet care responsibility. However, keep in mind that, although they may want to handle something like the litter box or dog walking, they might not be ready just yet, so definitely assign duties, but just be sure they’re age appropriate enough to ensure success!
Begin by make a list of all pet-care responsibilities, and talking with your children about which chores they feel they can handle. It’s better to give a child an easy daily chore than a difficult one that occurs less frequently. Discuss why each chore is important and what could happen to their pet if the chore is not done (like the animal could go hungry or get sick, for example). Be sure all family members participate in chores, and rotate them between kids. It’s a good idea to also serve as a role model so your children can learn responsible pet care by observing you.
Here are some ideas of appropriate pet related chores for different ages- remember that each child is different and you have to consider their unique needs as well:
Ages 2 to 5
Kids this age should always be supervised when interacting with the family pet, but they can still help out!
- Put food and water in pet dishes. Moms and Dads should be the ones to actively give food to animals just in case since pets can get excited about food and accidentally nip little fingers
- Help with cleaning small animal cages, like lining the bottom with newspaper or refilling shavings
- Clean and put away pet dishes
- Put away pet toys
Ages 6 to 10
- Fill up food and water in (if the pet is a dog, it’s probably a good idea to still supervise)
- Clean up pet areas
- Help with cleaning and dusting pet fur
- Clean up pet droppings in the yard or little box
- Assist with brushing, grooming and bathing, depending on the pet’s size and cleaning requirements
- Take pets on a walk, depending on the pet’s size and needs
Ages 10 and up
- Children at this age should be able to assume all aspects of pet care unless you have a very large dog- then walking or bathing still may need to be the parent responsibility
Having a pet means cleaning up after it- not only in the yard, but in the house! Most pets shed, at least a little, and also often can track in dirt and dust from the outside. These can add up to big messes in your house. If you are using the right tools, cleaning up after your furry friends is as easy as 1-2-3!
My favorite clean up tools is my arsenal of Swiffer products. They are so easy to use, my kids can help with this as much as I do! The classic Swiffer Duster helps trap and lock dust and pet fur that has landed on table tops, shelves and other hard surfaces. The lock all of that dust twice as well as using a feather duster- helping to climate the mess and potential allergy issues. For the floors my Swiffer Sweeper helps clean those dusty dog paw prints and dog hair piles right up with little fuss. The pads attach easily and the classic sweeper is so light, even my 6 year old can push it around! When I need something more heavy duty, I use my Swiffer Sweep and Vac to get up any dirt, dust, fur or crumbs that have landed on the ground.
When you use the Swiffer family of products, you can clean up after your pet easily and let your kids assist you too. Helping to tidy up is a great way for kids to get involved with pet responsibilities. Assign daily dusting and sweeping assignments to kids and you’ll keep that dust, dirt and fur problem under control. Shed happens, but with Swiffer, it doesn’t have to take away from spending time with your favorite furry friend!
Having a family pet offers definitely offers many benefits for children, but the key is to find a balance with responsibility and interaction. By assigning kids chores and holding them accountable for them, you are helping to teach them values and responsibility. Even the smallest child can lend a hand with the easier jobs, like pouring food into a dish. By pitching in, kids will realize that pets, just like people, need food, shelter, exercise, and love, teaching him valuable lessons about empathy, being kind and about compassion. Also, by allowing kids to burden some of the responsibility, lets parents have a little break too (well- I know it’s not really a BREAK, but maybe one less thing to do!)- and with the help of Swiffer dusters and pads, clean up can be much easier!
Do you have pets? What’s your favorite way to get your kids involved with helping to take care of them?
Thank you to Swiffer for sponsoring today’s post!