Pets may be an important part of adults' lives, but they could be crucial to kids.
Pet ownership is something all young children look forward to, whether they are getting a dog, cat, or even just some fish. Many parents wait to get their kids a pet until their child is old enough to be responsible for the pet, but research shows that growing up with pets from the beginning can be beneficial to child development.
7 Ways Children Benefit From Pet Ownership
— Dr Jo Righetti (@JoanneRighetti) July 9, 2018
Taking care of a family pet has many health benefits for both kids and adults. Still, cat and dog ownership, or any companion animal for that matter, can have a huge impact on a child's emotional and cognitive development. So here's a look at how pets can shape tiny human beings for the better.
1. Increase Emotional Intelligence
According to HABRI, studies have shown that pet ownership can significantly increase a child's emotional intelligence. In addition, caregivers learn how to put pets' well-being above their own, translating into valuable life lessons.
?2. Boost Immune System
Having a pet in early childhood has been shown to reduce the likelihood of allergies in the future. Dog owners have reduced occurrences of pet-related allergies in the future if they had a pet under the age of one. According to HABRI, teenagers who had a cat as an infant had a 48% less chance of developing a cat allergy than those who did not have one. Having a pet also helps children build natural immunity to diseases.
3. Higher Self-Esteem
HABRI points out that pets help children learn how to care for someone else, which leads to them feeling like they have an important job to do. If a child's sense of self is fulfilled, then so is their overall feeling of purpose. Pet care can also help a child feel like they have a bigger role in the family.
4. Builds Social Skills
— CACLL (@CanadaChildLife) September 4, 2016
Interacting with a pet can help children develop and maintain healthy social skills. For those who are shyer, pets can provide a gateway for them to interact with other people. HABRI's study on Pets in the Classroom showed that having a dog helped reduce stress, made children more empathetic toward one another, and fostered a greater sense of social integration.
5. Increases Physical Health
Playtime with the family dog can be the perfect way to get your child to go outside for some extra physical activity. Having a dog as a part of the family encourages children to go out on walks, play fetch, and spend some time in the fresh air, which reduces instances of childhood obesity and can lower blood pressure.
6. Mental Health Support
Kids struggling with ADHD, autism, and other mental health challenges benefit from having an animal to look after. Whether it's a pooch or a hamster, having a pet to spend time with can have a positive impact. According to Autism Speaks, parents need to be careful about choosing which best friend is best for their child. It is important to consider your child's sensitivities, especially when choosing a dog breed. Some dogs are better suited for children with mental health needs than others. You can also consider a service dog trained to specifically cater to your child and provide the best mental and emotional support.
7. Teaches Responsibility
Children are the future stewards of animals on this planet. It’s so vital to teach them to be compassionate toward animals, even if you can’t give them their own pet right now, you can still teach them compassion through TV & books! #NationalKidsAndPetsDay pic.twitter.com/fOvULPgyZZ
— Kids & Pets Day (@kidsandpetsday) April 26, 2020
Having a new pet can teach a child a lot about responsibility. Something as simple as feeding them their dog food in the mornings and evenings can instill a sense of purpose and begin a positive routine. Even feeding fish or a hamster can teach children to care for something other than themselves leading to further positive development.
How old were you when you got your first pet? Let us know on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.