Within our mini rain forest setting we also have a number of centre pets. They are very popular with our children, as you can see from the photos , but they also provide some amazing benefits such as teaching empathy and responsibility. Our pets currently include birds, fish and hermit crabs.
Benefits of animals
According to Dr Gail Goss:
1. Pets give unconditional love. They are non-judgmental, and a pet gives children someone to talk to. A pet can comfort, give support, and listen to a child’s troubles without judgment or consequence. And, when playing, a pet can become your child’s partner and best buddy.
2. A pet can teach empathy. Caring for a pet that is so dependent on you teaches empathy. Your child learns to read your pet’s needs: is he hungry? Does he need to go outside? Maybe the pet is scared of the wind, rain or snow and needs to be comforted. Moreover, empathy is the one skill that can be taught.
3. A pet can teach confidence and responsibility. Children can gain confidence by having the responsibility of caring for a pet. Children as young as three can manage simple tasks such as filling the pet’s water and food bowls.
4. Animals can help socialise children and increase verbal skills. Even very young children often chatter away with animals. In this way, pets give not only social and emotional support but also cognitive language skill support to children. A pet’s simple presence provides verbal stimulus to help your child practice talking and socialising with another being.
5. Pets (and animals in general) can be very therapeutic for children. Studies have shown how pets can help lower blood pressure, speed up recovery time, and reduce stress and anxiety.
6. A pet can teach a child that he doesn’t have to take out his anger or fear on others. Some children become bullies and if they don’t have a safe place to share their truest emotions, they may project those emotions onto other children. Because a pet will love your child no matter what he says, a pet gives him a confidant, a safe place in which to verbally pour out his fears and his anger.