For some people, the mere thought of having a pet makes you first break out in a cold sweat. Apart from having to take care of all the daily needs of every human occupant of the house, they also have to feed and clean the animal enclosures. But it turns out that the presence of a pet in your family has a myriad of benefits for children’s growth and development. If you are still reluctant to take the plunge, the facts below may convince you.
1. Helping children learn
A number of child educators have known for a long time that owning a pet dog can greatly assist the development of learning from children with special needs. Now they discover that all children can benefit from the presence of a furry, four-legged friend. In one study, children were asked to read aloud in front of peers, adults, and dogs. Researchers monitored their stress levels, and found that children relaxed most around animals, not humans.
2. Maintain children’s health
A pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department at the Medical College of Georgia, owning a pet actually reduces a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. His research tracked 474 babies from birth to around age 7. She found that children who were always around two or more dogs or cats as babies were less likely to develop common allergies due to early exposure to certain bacteria.
Children who have pets at home are also less likely to show positive skin test results for indoor allergens such as pet dander and dust mites – as well as for outdoor allergens such as pollen and plant sap.
No one is sure why this happened, but Dr. Ownby theorizes that when a child plays with a dog or cat, the animal usually licks it, as a sign of love. According to him, licking will transfer bacteria that live in the mouths of animals, and exposure to those bacteria can change the way a child’s immune system responds to other allergens.
And some research shows that pet owners are less likely to get sick. A 2012 study reported that children who live with a pet dog generally appear healthy during their first year of life, with a lower frequency of respiratory problems (eg, asthma) and ear infections than children who do not have pets.
Another benefit of keeping animals at home? Bathing, playing, or petting a furry creature can lower stress levels – and this applies not only to mom and dad, but to kids too.
3. Teach children a sense of responsibility, compassion, and care
Even the youngest toddlers can learn a little bit about responsibility by having pets in the house. Of course you will do most of the grooming chores for Sweetie, but your child will absorb a lot of knowledge from the behaviors you model indirectly, such as the importance of being kind and gentle. He can even reach out his little hand to help you with easier tasks, like pouring food onto a plate.
By being directly involved in taking care of their pets, children will realize that pets, just like humans – need food, shelter, exercise, and love. This then teaches him valuable lessons about empathy and compassion.