The Benefits of Pets for Kids

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Do you want your child to grow up with a much more diverse perspective of the world? If so, neutering the pet pig in your backyard can go a long way towards that.

Pets Help with Learning

Book clubs are popular among her mother’s friends, but Natalie has her own reading group of her own: We often find her curled up in the bed or lying in a quiet nook of the house, reading to one or more of her cats. She pets them as she reads, stops to show them pictures and asks them questions. She even reassures them during scary parts of the story. Book clubs are popular among her mother’s friends, but Natalie has her own reading group of her own: We often find her curled up in the bed or lying in a quiet nook of the house, reading to one or more of her cats. She pets them as she reads, stops to show them pictures and ask them questions. She even reassures them during scary parts of the story. That’s no surprise, says Mary Renck Jalongo PhD, education professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of The World of Children and Their Companion Animals. Educators have long known that bringing therapy animals into schools helps developmentally-challenged kids learn. Now they’re finding that all children can benefit from the presence of any nonjudgmental pal with paws. In one study, children were asked to read in front of a peer, an adult

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Pets Provide Comfort to Kids

According to a study, children recommend befriending other kids who have pets as one of their top pieces of advice. Pets are not just for the fun parts of life, though; they can also be a source of comfort. Dr. Melson found that when kids feel sad, afraid or angry, it’s common for them to turn to the person or animal who brings them comfort–their pet.

Pets Encourage Nurturing

Dr. Melson began studying the role of pets to learn how human beings develop the ability to care for others. “Nurturing isn’t a quality that suddenly appears in adulthood when we need it,” she says. “And you don’t learn to nurture because you were nurtured as a child. People need a way to practice being caregivers when they’re young.

“In our modern world, there’s little opportunity for kids to provide for other living things aside from animals. “In many other countries, siblings look after one another, but in the U.S., that’s not culturally acceptable,” Dr. Melson says. “It’s actually illegal in many states to leave kids in the care of anyone who is under 16 years of age.

“So how are the seeds of good parenting skills planted during childhood? Dr. Melson believes one way is through pets. In her research, she tracked how much time kids over age 3 spent actively caring for their pets versus caring for or even playing with younger siblings. Over a 24-hour period, pet-owning kids spent 10 minutes in caregiving; those with younger sibs spent only 2 minutes.

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“Nurturing animals is especially important for boys because taking care of an animal isn’t

Pets Can Keep Kids Healthy

There is research suggesting that animals can help protect kids from illness. According to a study by Dennis Ownby, M.D., a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department at Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, children who are exposed to two or more pets may actually be less likely to develop common allergies. Other studies have suggested that an early exposure to pets decreases children’s risk of developing asthma.

Pets Build Family Bonds

One of the benefits of owning a pet is often unexpected, even for parents who grew up around animals. Pets can help families grow stronger and closer. “Whenever I ask children and parents if their pets are really part of the family, most of them seem surprised–and almost offended–at the question,” says Dr. Melson.

The most common response is: “Of course they are!”A pet is often the focus of activities that families do together. Everyone takes their dog for a walk, or shares in grooming and feeding him, or gets down on the floor and plays with him. There are also benefits from simply watching a cat chase his tail or a fish swim in his tank.

Spending time like this offers many great potential benefits to slow down the hectic pace of modern life. If someone asks what you’ve been doing, you might respond: “nothing.” And in this era of over-scheduled children and adults who are constantly on the go, “nothing” can be an important thing to do.

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