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6 Ways that Caring for Pets Encourages Responsibility in Young Children

Updated on July 3, 2015
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A bookworm mom and writer on B is for Bookworm. She writes about how to survive the early years of parenting and homeschooling - happily!

A Pet Care Themed Lesson Plan

Getting a new pet makes for a great opportunity to talk about responsibility and how to care for them. This will most often be the first experience kids have with expressing compassion and care towards another living being. Whether you have a new pet at home or plan on having one in the future this topic is bound to come up over dinner with the family and it's better to be prepared as they say. Here are 6 reasons why you should get your kid a puppy. Warning: extreme cuteness ahead....

Domestic vs Wild Animals

1.Talking about which types of animals can be pets makes for an opportunity to learn. Books are extremely helpful for specific topics like this.They lead to fun conversations and share important lessons. For this lesson you can check out The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini. The link is to the author's website where she offers some fun activities and other book titles by her.

Have them point out which animals are pets and which animals are considered wild. I've created two pages of clip-art images. First print and cut the pages out. Then mix them up and have kids sort the animals into a domestic vs wild group with assistance from you. Notimeforflashcards extends the animal sorting categories by types of food they eat and animal skin pattern matching.

Printable Animal Sorting Cards


Start Small

2. Caring for a pet involves young children with small tasks to practice responsibility. Alonna Friedman, contributor on, got expert advice from Karen Ruskin, Psych M.D., author of "The 9 Key Techniques for Raising Respectful Children Who Make Responsible Choices." A great way of looking at it is, "When your child is invited to participate, he feels valued," says Dr. Ruskin. "He will take these good feelings and learn to take ownership of his home and feel pride in maintaining it." For example, start with having them brush the dog everyday and then increase their duties gradually over time.

Shows Compassion

3. Help them build an everlasting compassion towards animals. While kids learn responsibility of caring for another living creature they can grow up to value other people as well. The A.V.M.A. (American Veterinary Medical Association) offers activities for k-12 on pet care. If your family decides that owning a pet is not possible than visit the humane Society or a local animal shelter to volunteer or drop off supplies.

Needs Vs Wants

Needs vs Wants

One important need for both humans and pets is social interaction. Janet and Rick Wall write about how to care for dogs on Read more there for a dog training how-to guide for kids and your little one will be rolling over in no time (both the dog and the child :-)) has the love your dog (pet) contract. Remember to have kids sign this if you get a real pet and then point to it whenever they're slacking on their signed and "legally binding" agreement.

Interesting statistics estimated by the American Pet Products Association:

62 percent of American households included at least one pet

  • 83.3 million—Number of owned dogs
  • 95.6 million—Number of owned cats
  • about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues.

Number of Readers with Shelter or Rescue Pets

If you have a pet, did you choose to pick one at a shelter or a pet store?

See results

Make it Educational

4. Keep the kids busy with Montessori-Inspired Pet Themed Activities. Visit LivingMontessoriNow. Get inspired by tons of activities and resources available there from Deb Chitwood. Practice pet food pouring, counting dog bones, and letter practice with pompoms which are great practice for both gross and fine motor skills.

Crafts Make it Fun

5. You get to do fun crafts for a pet care theme. This Puppy Craft and counting game is an arts and crafts project from Amanda on Dirt & Boogers called Feed the Dog.

Feed The Dog


Pretend Play

6.When all else fails- Just set up fun pet themed play areas like this pet shop seen on Lighthouse Learning and pretend to purchase pet food and toys. This will be a fun way to bond together, build vocabulary, and talk even more about what having a new pet means to your family.

I love how Amy from Simple kids maps out what props are needed to create the pet shop and different set ups like weather forecaster, travel agency, and dentist.

Sorting Sprinkles created a grooming salon play date. Set out brushes and hand towels to pamper the plush pets.

Pet Spa Play


Pet Shop and Pet Spa


© 2015 Rachael Fernandez

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