Pets as teachers

2 - 6 years
Boy and dog

If you have a pet, it can help children learn social skills such as empathy, and can help develop their sense of identity—their place in the community, and where they stand in the world.

Learning through caring

Encourage your child to engage with your pet by talking about the foods they like to eat and other needs and belongings, such as where they sleep.

Responsibility and routine

Create a regular time for your pet’s feeding. This will help your child understand the importance of routine. If possible, allow your child to help with the feeding, as this will promote a sense of responsibility and can increase their confidence.

Pats and cuddles

If appropriate, encourage your child to pat your pet to form a lasting bond. Your child will learn empathy, develop a caring attitude and benefit emotionally from the friendship your pet provides.

Importantly, always supervise children when they are interacting with any animal, even a beloved family pet.

No pet, no worries

If you do not own a dog or a cat, maybe you have room for tadpoles, goldfish or a budgerigar. All of these can help teach your child social skills. Or, if your house is pet-free, encourage your child to bond with a close family friend’s pet on visits. You can also visit petting zoos and animal parks with your child for a fun excursion.

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Last modified
1 August 2019