We all know how much kids love pets and how those special bonds with their pals can impact their lives for the better. From having a buddy to cuddle up with at night to having a constant companion to explore the outdoors and play with, there’s no denying what a pet can mean to a child. In honor of National Kids and Pets Day tomorrow, April 26, here are a few tips to keep in mind when introducing kids to new pets:
- Gentle Hands – Teaching kids to be gentle is a huge contributor to the relationship they can have with a pet. Take the time to demonstrate the proper way to interact with animals, which is calmly (no loud noises) and with non-threatening hands, such as a low, closed fist or open palm for the animal to sniff and become familiar with. Kids should never tug on pets and should avoid their ears, eyes, and mouth when petting and playing.
- Approach With Caution – Whether kids are meeting a new pet at home or at a friend’s or neighbor’s house, it’s important to emphasize personal space and permission. Remind kids to stand at a safe distance and not crowd the animal with their faces or fingers, as new pets can often be scared and timid. Kids should also ask the owner for permission to pet an animal before approaching them.
- Calm Demeanor – Explain to kids that animals don’t share in excitement the way humans do, and that loud noises or quick movements can startle them, which can provoke an ill response such as biting or shying away. Animals can feel more at ease when humans act gentle, doting, and attentive, rather than surrounded by jumping and shouting.
- Warning Signs – Adults have an easier time judging when an animal simply isn’t comfortable. But when a small child can’t wait to pet or play with their new companion, they might be oblivious to warning signs. Most pets will approach an open palm with friendly curiosity, giving the ‘ok’ to be handled. If an animal turns their head, walks away, puts their ears back, cowers, hides their tail between their legs or shows teeth, it’s crucial for children to know that playtime is a no-no.
- Proper Care – Pets can serve as major stepping-stones in teaching children responsibilities. When welcoming a new pet to the family, encourage children to help care for them by feeding them daily; keeping bowls filled with fresh, clean water; grooming pets; cleaning up after them regularly; and providing pets with ample play.
Have another helpful tip? Share with us here in the comments! And for more information on National Kids and Pets Day we encourage you to head here.