So, We Brought Home a Pet… Three Best Practices for a Kid’s First Pet

Bringing home your child’s first pet is an experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime. It’s also an effort that can feel a bit overwhelming. Below, we’ll look into everything you need to know about a kid’s first pet, from choosing the right animal to chores and safety rules that need to be enforced every step of the way:

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1). Choose the Right Pet to Begin With

Before you bring a pet home, be sure it’s a good fit for your family. If your child has hockey or gymnastics practice every day of the week, they may not be a great match for an animal that needs a large amount of socialization. Also consider other family factors, including allergies, how often you travel, and how much space you have both in your home and in your yard.

Some great kid’s first pets include:

  • Hermit crabs
  • Guinea pigs
  • Fish
  • Cats or dogs

Each of these cute creatures has different requirements and characteristics. By examining the wants and needs of your family beforehand, you’ll be able to choose the pet that’s right for you.

2). Encourage Responsibility at Every Age

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Kids of all ages can help with your new furry (or scaly) family member. Below are a specific few details on how each age group can join in on the responsibility:

  • Kids Under Three — Yes, even your littlest tots can help with that new pet of yours! They’ll need a bit of guidance on your end, but they can help fill the food dish, spot the messes that need to be cleaned up, or grab the leash when it’s time for a walk. This is also the perfect time to role model appropriate animal behavior. Be sure to talk through and show your child how to gently pet your animal, how to stay calm in its presence, not to pull its tail or sit on its body, etc. Kids learn best through visual examples and live-action scenarios, so be sure to work these simple lessons into daily life.
  • Preschoolers — Four and five-year-olds can give a treat to your pet to reward good behavior or just to add a bit of positivity to the day. They can also continue to assist on the daily tasks with mom or dad’s support — dropping pre-measured food into the dish or holding the leash of a well-trained dog on a nightly walk.
  • Early Elementary — As your kiddos continue to grow, they can be even more involved. This age group may enjoy teaching simple commands and tricks to your pet to exercise their brains. They may also help brush, wash, or even pick up waste after the pet goes potty.
  • Older Elementary — Your oldest children can do almost everything you do! They can begin to recognize the needs of your pet, communicating and helping when it’s time for food, water, grooming, and bathroom breaks. They may even want to help younger siblings join in on the tasks, too.

3). Stick to the Safety Rules at All Times

Pets are safe to have at home when rules are followed, but these need to be implemented from the very start to ensure you have a positive experience with your new house member. Below are a few top pet safety rules you can enforce with your child:

  • Adult supervision is always required when kids are around pets
  • Always be gentle when playing with or petting your furry pal
  • Give pets some space when it’s time to eat
  • Never take anything from an animal’s mouth
  • Try not to touch a pet’s waste with your hands

These rules (and more that you come up with together) can help keep your entire family safe as a new animal enters your home. Helping kids of all ages understand them from the start will make them easier to enforce as time goes on, too.

No matter what your kid’s first pet ends up being, it’s sure to be a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. Use the tips above to make the process as smooth as possible, and don’t forget to cherish all the big smiles you get back along the way!

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