Many Seattle-area students are doing a combination of distance learning, hybrid learning, and homeschooling.
Incorporating your dog or cat into your child’s at-home education is a fun way to enhance your child’s learning.
- Pets can be the focus of a unit of study.
- Pets can motivate your student to problem-solve, practice responsibility, and become a proficient reader.
Let’s explore the many ways your furry family members provide built-in opportunities for learning.
Caring for a pet not only teaches your child to be responsible, it also helps them practice empathy, creative thinking, organizational and time-management skills.
Caring for a pet means understanding and meeting their basic needs, such as daily feeding, changing their water, grooming, cleaning up after them, and keeping the home environment as clean as possible.
It also means learning:
- How to handle and treat a pet appropriately
- Which foods are nutritious and which are dangerous for your pet
- Why pets require regular veterinary check-ups and vaccines
- How to provide comfortable and safe play and sleep areas. This might involve planning or constructing a dog house or a cat playground or obstacle course.
An important part of pet care for dog owners is taking them on daily walks. Exercise is great for both your child and your dog, and the need for a walk is the perfect excuse to take mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks to burn off energy.
“Recess” is also the perfect time to have active play sessions with your cat or dog.
Adjusting to the “new normal” isn’t easy. Adults and children alike are experiencing heightened anxiety and stress. Doggy kisses and kitty snuggles are surefire ways to boost morale and provide the companionship we crave.
If your child is accustomed to being around other students and teachers all day in a school setting, the absence of in-person interaction can be disconcerting. While pets aren’t great at carrying on conversations, they are good listeners. Your child can practice their reading skills by reading aloud to a pet.
They can boost their confidence in speaking to the teacher during Zoom sessions by practicing a presentation to an audience of dogs and cats.
Lesson Plans that Include Pets
You can also include pets as an integral part of the curriculum. Here are some subject-area ideas to try:
- Write a story about your pet.
- Write a story or essay from your pet’s point-of-view.
- Illustrate your story and bind it into a handmade book.
- Read the completed story to your pet.
- Learn to pronounce and spell the names of dog and cat breeds (Dachshund, Rottweiler, Lhasa Apso, Sokoke, Khaomanee, and Siamese are challenging).
- Measure and weigh your pet’s food.
- Create a chart, spreadsheet or budget that shows the weekly cost of food, toys, and veterinary care for your pet.
- When learning addition, multiplication, or even calculus, your child can create story problems that include your pet.
- Compare and contrast the impact of adding a new pet to your household.
- Study different breeds of cats and dogs and identify the unique traits of each breed.
- Study animal behavior.
- Learn about animal organ systems: respiratory, circulatory, skeletal, nervous, digestive, and reproductive.
- Discover why cats typically sleep 13-14 hours per day, or 70% of their lives (this can also be a math lesson).
History and Geography
- Read books and watch documentaries about when and where certain breeds of dogs originated, and the purposes for which they were bred (herding, hunting, racing, retrieving, guarding).
- Learn the history of domesticated cats.
- Study the role of cats in ancient Egypt.
- Learn about animal rights, animal preservation, and endangered species.
- As your child teaches their dog to shake hands or fetch, discuss the effects of positive and negative reinforcement.
- Build a maze and study whether your pet can make their way through it to find their favorite treat.
- Discover why cats narrow their eyes, do a “slow blink,” or purr.
- Compare normal pet behavior with behaviors that develop when a pet is ill or anxious.
Pets as a Career
- Join 4H or Scouts to learn about raising and training many types of animals.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter.
- Visit a therapy dog training program.
- Learn about the types of jobs that allow you to work with cats and dogs: veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, pet psychologist, veterinarian, veterinary epidemiologist, veterinary radiologist, veterinary nutritionist, groomer, pet sitter, service dog trainer, and many more!
You’ll find hands-on activities, lesson plans, and book studies at American Kennel Club Educator Resources.
This is a very helpful article. Thank you Dr. Monahan!
I look forward to sharing this with my clients and their parents (I am a child and family therapist) and a few friends with pets and children at home.