Ask any adult who grew up with pets about their experience and they’ll likely sing the praises of having a four-legged friend by their side all those years. Pets not only become an integral part of the family — a best friend you can’t imagine being without — but they also provide many other “hidden” benefits.
For example, a pet teaches us life lessons in both patience and responsibility; someone’s got to feed, water, and scoop, after all. They also encourage us to exercise and engage our minds, and research even shows that lovingly interacting with pets can help reduce stress, improve our physical health, and help those with autism and ADHD.
If you’re thinking about adopting a pet into your family or already have, we’ve outlined some helpful tips to help foster that pet and child bond.
Have Your Kids Help with Simple Pet Chores
Not only does having your children help with pet responsibilities reduce your task load, but it also teaches your children responsibility and provides an opportunity for pet and child bonding. The key is to make the chores age-appropriate. For example, a toddler can help scoop food for your pets and a teen can walk the family dog.
Teach a New Trick to Your Pet as a Family
A great way to facilitate pet and child boding is to teach your pet a new trick together. (This is a little easier with dogs, but cats can learn tricks, too). This task teaches your child patience and that hard work can result in a reward. The side-bonus is that your pet gets to lap up attention, and you have a better-trained fur friend.
Make Brushing a Regular Event
Unless you’ve got a hairless pet, brushing is an important part of any pet’s regimen and it’s an easy task that any child can help with. Brushing helps keep your pet’s coat shiny, healthy, and matt-free, and it also keeps dander and hair from piling up throughout your house. Many pets also love being brushed, especially if you start early. We recommend brushing at least once every few days.
Let Your Child and Pet Bond During Stressful Events
Whether your pet is heading to the vet in a carrier or dealing with loud fireworks, allowing your child to step in and offer comfort can help strengthen their bond and teaches empathy. You can also have your pet step in and do the same in situations where your child is upset or stressed out about a situation.
Hang Out at the Park, Go for Walks, and Play Inside
Physical activity is important for your pet’s health and wellbeing, as well as your child’s. Make exercise a regular part of your family’s lives by scheduling a weekly playdate at the dog park, going on a nightly walk around the neighborhood, or playing a game of fetch outdoors. Your child can also engage in physical activities with a family feline, too. Try lasers, hide and seek, feather and string toys, and fetch (yep, cats will definitely play fetch).
Schedule a Photo Shoot
There are few things cuter than a pet photoshoot, and this can work with both cats and dogs. You can hire a professional photographer (find one who specializes in pets, though) or you can even set up your own! Go all out by designating a theme, such as Valentine’s Day, Spring Fling, Winter Wonderland, or Fourth of July. The actual process of having the pictures taken is a great bonding experience, and the pictures will be pretty cute, too.
For most kids, their childhood pet is remembered with fondness and love, and may even inspire them to adopt a pet for their own children. Fostering a good relationship between your pet and kid is a great lesson for everyone. Encourage your child and family members to spend least a few hours every day caring for or playing with your pet, and everyone will be much happier and calmer as a result!