Is my toddler mature enough to take care of a pet?
Whether you already have a pet at home, or are thinking of adding a fuzzy companion to your family, you may be wondering about your baby’s role in pet care as she gets older. Though she is still too young to care for a pet on her own, at this age, she can definitely start to help you take care of a pet. Here are some ways your baby can pitch in to help when it comes to pet care.
- Food and water: As your baby’s fine motor skills develop, she may be able to help scoop food and pour water into your pet’s dish. You may want to lend a hand so she doesn’t make a mess, and closely supervising feeding time is an important safety precaution, but this very important aspect of pet care is one that your baby may be ready to help dish out.
- Maintaining the cage: If you have a pet whose cage needs cleaning, like a hamster, letting your baby help you clean the cage out can help you start to teach her about the importance of taking proper care of a pet, and the amount of work that can entail. She can line the cage with papers, or even refill the shavings, with you as a guide - just make sure she thoroughly washes her hands afterwards!
- Cleaning up toys: For bigger pets, like cats or dogs, there’s a good chance you have more than a few toys lying around for playtime. Since your baby is able to help clean up her own toys at the end of the day, she should also be able to help out cleaning up a pet’s toys.
- Brushing: For pets who are even-tempered and enjoy being brushed, this can be an appropriate job for your baby to take on, under your supervision. You can talk to her about how, just like people, family pets need grooming and good hygiene to look and feel their best.
- Playing: The best part about having a pet is all the fun they bring to the family. your baby’s favorite part of pet care is sure to be playing with your pet - and it’s probably your pet’s favorite, too. Closely supervise, and make sure your baby knows not to play too rough, but once your baby and the family pet get used to each other, playing together can be a great way for your baby to learn about playing nicely, and thinking about the feelings of others.
While your baby will still need lots of help, now is a great time to introduce her to the basics of pet care. It will take a bit more time for her to help with the big tasks, like taking the family dog for a walk, but getting her involved early is a great way to help her feel confident and to learn responsibility. Your pet will thank her with lots of love!
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