As a father, watching a child innocently interact with their family pet is a heartwarming feeling. While growing up you may have spent countless warm summer days exploring the outdoors with your dog, or just lying in the grass together while contently watching the clouds drift by. And remember even at an early age how easily your dog could cheer you up when no one else could?
In addition to providing your child with another source of unconditional love and comfort, raising a pet teaches children valuable life lessons that carry over well into adulthood.
Pets Provide Kids with These Benefits
Researchers have found that when a child helps raise a family pet it provides them with these health and wellness benefits:
- Teaches responsibility. Performing tasks like feeding the dog or cleaning out a rabbit’s cage teaches children responsibility and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
- Comfort and companionship. No matter how they are feeling, a child can find support and security from an animal companion. Overall, children who are around pets tend to be happier, less anxious and more socially engaged than children who aren’t.
- Helps with learning. Teaching a small child how to take care of a pet helps them develop better learning skills. You can talk to your toddler about topics like why their pet has fur, or why they need love and attention just like people do.
- Encourages exercise. Whether it’s chasing after a pet rabbit in the yard or helping mom or dad walk the dog, being around a pet will promote a healthier lifestyle for your child that includes plenty of exercise.
- Strengthens family ties. Since they’re oftentimes the focus of family activities, raising a pet can also help strengthen family ties. Spending time together while feeding, grooming or walking a pet will create many warm memories that will last a lifetime.
- Cycle of life. Although it’s sad and painful when a pet dies, their death can be used as a teachable moment to explain the cycle of life to your child. Discussing uncomfortable topics will equip them with the necessary coping skills to deal with life challenges when they come along.
- It’s fun. Whether it’s a dog, cat or fish, having a family pet in the household provides daily enjoyment for everyone!
Choosing the Right Pet for Your Toddler
Just like humans, family pets need attention, nurturing and love to survive. When choosing the right pet for your toddler, you’ll need to find one that’s even-tempered and easy to raise.
With that in mind, here are 5 examples of family pets that work well around small children:
These cuddly critters are members of the rodent family that make nice pets for toddlers because they are outgoing, low maintenance and gentle. In fact, a guinea pig doesn’t require much care other than some occasional feeding, watering and cage-cleaning. Guinea pigs are also laid-back, so they don’t mind being held and petted.
Although guinea pigs do tend to kick around their bedding which can be annoying at times, in general they make great house pets for younger children.
If a dog is on your pet “wish list”, certain breeds have better dispositions than others for tolerating little children who like to grab and tug, so do your homework first. Breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labradors are affectionate, loving and loyal, while something like a Shar-Pei or Pitbull will probably be too moody and unpredictable.
A new dog will not only provide companionship and promote exercise, they will also be your child’s protector when you’re not around. To make your dog hunting trip even more rewarding, consider adopting an abandoned pet from the local shelter.
Cats are also good pets for small children because they need minimal care and like to be held or petted often. But much like dogs, certain feline breeds, like Manx, Birman or Ragdoll, make better family pets than others because they are even-tempered and more domesticated.
Your youngster can easily learn how to take care of their new feline friend because all it will require is cleaning the litter box and making sure they have food and water. Believe it or not, some cats can even be taught to fetch objects just like dogs can!
Have you ever heard of a degu? Native to Chile, this exotic, brown-colored rodent looks like an oversized gerbil, is easy to take care of and very affectionate. And unlike hamsters, a degu is not nocturnal, which means you won’t have to deal with squeaking noises in the middle of the night while everyone is trying to sleep.
In addition to looking cute and cuddly, degus also like to be coddled by their owners, but never pick one up by their tail!
Many families like to buy goldfish as starter pets for their kids but keeping a goldfish’s tank clean takes a lot of hard work. A great alternative is an elegant-looking Betta fish, or “Siamese fighting fish”, which are indigenous to the rice paddies and slow-moving canals of Southeast Asia.
To get started with your new Betta fish all you’ll need is the right-sized tank filled with clean water. Bettas make great beginner pets for toddlers because there are no filters or chemicals to mess with, and they only need to be fed once or twice a day. However, Bettas are naturally aggressive, so make sure to keep yours away from other fish.
As a father, getting your toddler a starter pet will teach them valuable life lessons about loyalty, love and companionship. Raising a pet will also show your child the importance of responsibility and servitude so that they will remember those traits when it’s time to raise a family of their own.
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