How pets benefit a child's development
According to The Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, an estimated 48% of UK households have at least one pet. This equates to 13 million households taking care of 67 million pets. Half of all UK children therefore grow-up with a pet in their home, which can bring many physical, social, emotional and cognitive developmental benefits.
Helping to look after a pet can facilitate numerous aspects of a child's emotional development. Research shows that reading to a loyal and nonjudgmental companion, such as a dog or cat, can encourage reluctant readers to read aloud, which will in turn boost their self-confidence. Having a companion to talk to about their feelings can also help children feel secure, whilst developing their communication skills, and feelings of empathy and trust.
A household pet can also foster a child's sense of responsibility as their parent explains the necessary processes of keeping their pet happy and healthy. As a child matures they can then take on more of the daily responsibilities, boosting their sense of independence.
Pets can also provide invaluable lessons about life, including reproduction, birth, illnesses and death. This can help to prepare children for future bereavement.
Pets also provide a fantastic subject for research and learning. Parents can encourage their child to research their favourite pets at the library or during a supervised internet search. Taking children along to vet appointments or the pet shop to buy food and supplies will support their cognitive development as their passion for learning flourishes.
A child's physical development can benefit greatly from taking pets for walks in the fresh air. Even their fine-motor skills can be utilised when grooming and preparing food for a beloved animal.
When responsibilities are well paced and communicated, a child can benefit greatly from involvement in bringing up a happy and healthy pet. And of course, if a child doesn't have a pet in their own household, they can still benefit from all of the above when visiting a friend who does!