My seven-year-old nephew, Kiko, runs a zoo in their house. He has fishes, love birds, turtles, chickens, pigeons, dogs and eel under his care. Though this may sound like a crazy circus, it is quite amazing to see Kiko grow and learn from these animals.
Keeping pets at home provide ample opportunities of learning to little kids. Aside from the obvious benefits of learning about animals, children can learn a lot about life while taking good care of their pets.
Lesson # 1. Responsibility - Feeding the animals, giving them baths, cleaning their houses and petting them can teach a child understand that everyone has a role in the house and in life. Fortunately my nephew plans to be a veterinarian someday, so he does all these tasks with enthusiasm. But if your child doesn't really like doing a lot of these things, you can start by giving him a very easy task. For example, you can give him the job of a pet feeder. I am sure that your child will enjoy watching the fishes gulp up their food.
Lesson # 2 . Moderation - When Kiko had his first set of fishes, they all died the next day. Kiko was so excited that he ended up feeding the fishes every hour even against his mother's order. When all the fishes died, Kiko learned that too much food can kill his pets. So, the next time we bought him new victims he became very careful about feeding his pet.
Learning about moderation in this manner can teach your child understand why he can't have too much ice cream or spend all his time watching the TV. Inevitably, the same lessons can help your child understand the importance of being contented and purposeful in life.
Lesson # 3 . Letting go - I think one of the most important lesson in raising pets at home is learning about death. When Kiko's first dog died, he was devastated. He cried nursing her in his little arms. while my sister and I tried to console him at no avail. Until now, even if he has new dogs, he still becomes very sad when we mention the name of his old dog. But he knows it is impossible for his dog to come back and all he could do is to move on.
While death is something that I really hate teaching my pupils about, it is something that we all have to go through at some points in our lives. Witnessing the passing of a pet provides a subtle way of learning about letting go and being left behind. And more importantly, it makes your child realize that life can go on even without the people and the things that they value so much.
Lesson # 4 . Cycle of life. - When Kiko's chicken laid eggs, everyone in the house were so excited....to eat the eggs, that is. But Kiko refused to cook them even if the hen would keep on laying eggs almost every day. Because of this, the chicken population in their house just kept on growing and growing. When asked about why he did not want us to eat the eggs, Kiko said that the chicks need to grow up so they could lay their eggs too.
The cycle of life teaches respect to history and the importance of family. It gives the child an idea of the changing roles of each man as he grows up.
Lesson # 5 - Love - I think the most important lesson to be learned from raising a pet is learning how to love. Putting somebody else's needs before yours, thinking about the welfare of others and finding time to spend with somebody else are some of the things you will learn if you keep a pet at home.
I remember Kiko when his dog died, he told his mother that his chest hurts a lot. It was a very heartbreaking scene but it was also very very sweet. Imagine a three year old kid learning how it feels to love unconditionally? Now, no other lesson can top that!