Saturday, April 17, 2010

Taking care of the family pet at L.'s house

     Encouraging children to take part in the care of a family pet is a wonderful way of empowering children.  Whether the family pet is a fish, dog, cat, guinea pig, chicken, horse, or elephant the lessons that are instilled in a child through caring for animals will remain with them for the rest of their lives.  Including live animals in a child’s daily life  greatly enhances their abilities to learn responsibility, empathy and compassion for other living things, respect for life, and the natural development of living things.  In addition to being a loving companion, pets provide a comfort and solace in times of stress.

     Pets don't have to be expensive or a lot of work. Evaluate how busy your family is and take it from there.  Your local pet store should be able to help you decide what is best for your family but make sure that if you purchase a pet, it is coming from a reputable organization.

With all that said, here are some pictures from L.'s house.  L. takes care of the family dog with the loving guidance and support of his parents.  
Dad puts one scoop of kibble into the bowl that L. holds up.  When he is older, L. will be able to do the scooping all by himself.

L. then walks across the kitchen and places the bowl of food on the floor for the dog.  Here, L. instructs a friend on the finer points of pet care. 

Then they take the dog for a walk.  Obviously, this may not be possible if the dog is young and untrained and I know from experience that cats & fish don't like going for walks.  Finding ways to help the children do things for themselves  may take some observation and thought but is well worth the effort.

A slow meander through the neighbourhood....

...then off for a little nature exploration once the job is done.



  1. I find that L loves to do things like feed the dog etc. while it is new but once the novilty wears off(a month or so) she is not interested any more. We still offer her the opportunity to do the thing but she refuses. What would you suggest?

  2. Hmmm. Without knowing your child, I wonder if it is because she perceives the task as one she has mastered? Is it time to put more steps into the task or is she more interested in another aspect of pet care? (Like washing out the food bowl or pouring water in the water dish using a small pitcher.) As usual, my feeling is to observe her with the eye of a scientist. What is she doing instead of feeding the dog? Is there something else she is working on at the moment? Does she watch carefully when someone else feeds the dog?
    The important thing (and I kow I don't have to tell you tis) is not to make her do the task. When my boys were little, I gave them choices - would you like to sweep the floor or wash the floor? - would you like to put the clothes into the washing machine or into the dryer? fact, I still use that on them : )

    Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks Cynthia. That does help a lot. I guess I just really haven't been sure if once L was able to do something on her own I should expect her to do it all the time or just let her do it when she wants to. I suppose Practical life activities are supposed to be done to work on skills and not just as chores. L also doesn't fall for the whole choice thing either. She'll just say no to both choices or refuse to make a choice if she doesn't want to do something. Maybe that's my real question. When do I press that she has to do something and when do I let it go and do it for her?
    Ahh so many questions!!!

  4. I have found that same thing with my son. Sometimes children have to find out what "not doing" something means. If we don't do the laundry, then you won't be able to wear your favorite green pants to school tomorrow. The consequence of not wiping the table after lunch is a yucky sticky spot at dinner time or art time. Logical consequences! The other tactic that works for us sometimes is to not allow the next fun activity before the first is completed (like at school). It can be a challenge at times, and it is usually when G is feeling overwhelmed at the amount of tidying up asked of him (he can make a big mess in a very small time!). When that happens, we work together to get it done quickly and happily move on to other things. MAKING him do something never usually has a happy ending (unless he's in trouble for something and we are making a point), but more often than not, we can convince him! ;)
    Having a child who can say "no" and mean it isn't always a bad thing! She may be asserting her independence and practicing a skill that will serve her well in life!

  5. Such a sweet post! I featured a photo and your post in my Montessori Care of Pets at Living Montessori Now: