At Circus Day Nursery and Pre School, we cherish the benefits of keeping pets, to enhance development and learning. For many reasons we feel it is such a healthy connection for young children and here’s some reasoning behind our FUR-ever friends!

Dog with Butterfly

A quick glimpse through your children’s bedroom will remind you just how densely our furry friends populate storybooks, movies, music, toys, décor and even clothing, let alone the toy companies who have made countless sales from productions. So what is it about our animals that are so endearing? I think for the majority, they become not only companions but a member of the family, keeping you happy, healthy and offering unconditional love, very often connecting family members to the pack!

Growing up, my sister and I were blessed with dogs and rabbits from a very young age. I recall the joy and sheer diffusion of my stresses that even at a young age those little creatures would bring. Whether it be struggling with homework, sibling squabbles or just tired after a long day at school, the dog’s greeting or the rabbits cuddles were always a calming distraction from our early years frustrations. Deeply entwined with a trust to listen to my deepest childhood secrets and worries, these family members, often made my world a calmer place.

Dog with Card

In our modern world of technology there seems to be diminishing opportunity for young children to provide and care for other living things, aside from pets. Caring for animals is beneficial for both genders, especially boys as it’s not stereotyped into it being seen as a ‘girl thing’, and it provides a nurturing way to naturally develop many qualities.

The ability to connect with others reduces very much to one essential skill, a skill often lacking in relationships, the willingness and ability to listen, but to really listen, to switch gears from output mode to input mode. If we can develop this skill in the early years, with the help of our patient friends, this will hopefully continue throughout into adulthood.

Pets offer a special kind of companionship giving rewarding ad unconditional love in return. They are analogue, watching and listening intently, devoid of criticism or judgement and will patiently sit and wait until we are ready to engage and connect with them.

Animals are smart with feelings, they teach us many qualities we can take forward in life and they have a way of connecting families, uniting us to the pack!

Having just finished a wonderful book ‘Listen Like a Dog’ by Jeff Lazarus, I was confidently prompted to research and write more on this topic, so here I am on Friday night happily tapping away at the keyboard, as my pup adoringly lies next to me, resting. Reflecting on the personal benefits from my companion, I realised on our many walks how I can think more clearly and plan more, I feel happier having done some exercise and all the benefits that brings, but also a connection as my dog interacts with other animals, it’s a way of communicating with other pet parents, who ordinarily I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to meet. And so, it generates connection, one of the most significant human needs.

Watching young children react and interact with animals is pretty amazing, even the shy temperaments, often open up and shine when they connect with a furry friend. Recently reading of an inspiring project, when some children who were introduced to an animal shelter in the USA to engage in reading to the animals, I couldn’t help but think what a beautifully brilliant concept, for many reasons. Children gain so much confidence and can strengthen their communication skills when reading out aloud to someone who is not going to perceivably judge them. They are engaging and connecting, feeling wanted and needed.

I’m sure many of us recall reading out aloud at school to other peers, often a source of embarrassment and shame. School children can often be unintentionally cruel, often ridiculing instead of encouraging, despite reasoning, this experience often leaves the reader vulnerable and self-conscious. If only we had read to dogs instead, imagine what a pleasurable experience, increase in self assurance, sense of worth and accomplishments could be achieved. Whilst not everyone may have dogs to read to, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even parrots have made great reading partners!

So if your child is struggling to read, may not always want to sit and read, or if you notice a decrease in self-confidence, this maybe worth considering. Maybe even your local animal shelter might offer some kind of reading programme. The benefits of reading to animals are without a doubt something to bark about and a win-win connection for both!

Kids with Pets

Sue Wilson
Owner and founder of Circus Day Nursery and Pre-School. Cheltenham
T: 01242 253222