Showing Kids How to Play With Pets
Kids and pets are a wonderful mix but it doesn’t come naturally for most children. A child needs to be taught about how to be respectful and kind to animals, not treat them like toys. Parents who can show their kids how to play with pets will have children who enjoy a happier, safer relationship with their animals.
You Are the Best TeacherKids learn best by watching what you do with your pet, having things explained to them in a way they can relate to and then being guided through the process the first few times. Until you feel like your child completely has the hang of pet play, make sure playtime is always under supervision. This helps prevent accidents and injuries and is especially important in the case of younger children and toddlers. Before introducing kids to playing with pets, take the time to be sure they fully understand the dos and don’ts of pet playtime. Having children role play with you, with kids playing the part of the pet, is an excellent way to get the point across. You can also use stuffed animals as a way to do a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the playtime with pets.
When Kids Get ExcitedYounger children and toddlers are prone to high-pitched voices, squealing, jumping around, jerky movements and shrieks of delight when they get excited about something. And playing with an animal can be very exciting, indeed! But pets can startle easily, misinterpreting the child’s behaviour as threatening. As the pet becomes afraid, playtime is suddenly over. Parents should help kids work on keeping voices low and calm, gestures slow and smooth and keep jumping to a minimum. With dogs and puppies this is particularly important as the overwrought canine could accidentally bite the child.
Rough StuffOne of the most common mistakes kids make is playing too roughly with their pets. Not only can this lead to your pets being harmed, it’s also a cause of kids getting bitten or scratched in self-defence by the disgruntled or wounded pet. Whether it’s a dog being aggressive after a toy is yanked away abruptly, a cat who scratches when her tail is pulled or a small animal who scrambles to get away when held too tightly, kicking and biting in fear, these incidents are easily preventable. Gentleness is the key to positive animal interactions.
Good Playtime Activities for Kids and Pets:
- Ball tossing
- Frisbee throwing
- String chasing
- Maze building for pocket pets
- Games with treats to reinforce positive pet behaviour
Activities That Can Be Harmful
- Anything involving pulling a toy away from a pet
- Holding animals against their will
- Games with elements of intense teasing and too much animal frustration