How many times has your child asked you this question: "Mom and Dad, may we please get a dog?" Has your child asked repeatedly for a pet? Research shows that children who have owned and raised a pet, develop stronger skills in maintaining meaningful relationships throughout life.
Research also states that owning a pet is one of the contributing factors in helping children understand and demonstrate empathy. Knowing when someone is uncomfortable, caring enough to change our own behavior so the other person becomes more comfortable, feeling the feelings of others...this is empathy.
In Concordia’s Preschool, the current unit of study is about sharing life with creatures and plants, developing an awareness of living things. How to care for animals in a kind, gentle way sparks learnings of empathy and compassion. Caring for animals that are hurt or sick transfers to caring for our friends at school.
What better way to learn these skills than to create an animal hospital with an animal doctor in the classroom? Imagination and role playing ignites new vocabulary and ways to practice new learnings. During Center Time in the Teddy Bear class, each child will have the opportunity to pretend being the animal doctor, veterinarian, for the day. They even have nurses to help too!
Preschool students are very interested in caring for their hurt or sick pets. They are anxious to visit the vet, the animal doctor, on duty. Learning ways to care for their animal friends teaches them ways to show care and concern for their classmates.
Students can call the clinic, ahead of time to schedule an appointment with the vet. One day the animal doctor was so very busy, the clinic hired a secretary to help! There were so many phone calls and sick pets.
The nurses follow-up by offering aftercare – some animals need to stay for a while in the recovery room. This is where the animals rest after the doctor performs surgery or gives injections or bad tasting medicine.
The Teddy Bear class expanded their animal clinic, allowing other preschoolers to bring their sick animals for treatment. The number of veterinarians increased due to so many sick animals needing treatment.
It may only seem like child’s play but when children have the opportunity to understand how animals have feelings, they want and need attention, love and food, transfers to caring for people and themselves.
Don’t fear if your home situation will not support a pet. There are many ways to expose your child to the care of animals. There may be volunteer opportunities at an animal shelter, a farm or petting zoo near you where your child can actually touch and interact with animals.
If you are interested in fostering or adopting a pet here in Shanghai, visit Furry Friends for more information.