There are some undeniable benefits to learning how to take care of living things. Consider these things when training kids to be caregivers:
We are in such a digital bubble world these days. Life is busier, more complicated, and more focused on outside the home activities.
This gradual change in lifestyle has resulted in a lot of life lessons and opportunities being lost for kids. Here are some reasons why it’s beneficial for kids to take care of animals, plants, gardens, etc. and how to make that happen on a smaller scale.
Kids’s learn empathy when they learn how to take care of living things. You know the feeling, everything changes when something depends on you.
Empathy, in a nutshell is when someone can understand how somebody else may feel. You’re probably thinking “what does emotions and feeling have to do with taking care of living things.”
I want to propose to you that learning to care for, tend to the needs of, and/or grow living things is a building block necessary for children to develop a healthy sense of empathy.
Example: A child get’s a pet puppy. It’s not long before that child can “read” the dog’s whines or barks. When the puppy is thirsty or hungry… it will let the the child know. In effect, the child is learning how to harness empathy when it relates to someone else.
All of the sudden, the world doesn’t revolve 100% around making me happy. Now, It’s my job to take care of someone else. My wold has grown… and so has my intellect.
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Empathy is a life skill because it…
- helps kids build a sense of security,
- helps them form stronger relationships,
- encourages tolerance,
- teaches acceptance of others,
- and promotes overall mental health.
Having to care for living things fosters gratitude in children.
They may not be able to express it completely. But when kids go though the process of caring for something that depends on them, they get a small picture of what it takes to care for them.
Kids also learn to appreciate the value of time and effort. Depending on what they are taking care of, they begin to see how much time caregiving takes.
Taking care of a hermit crab may not take as much time as tending to a vegetable garden.
Gratitude also comes love…
“I’m so thankful to have my…” Why? Because I love it so much!
Using vocabulary that teaches gratitude is a good idea when teaching your little ones to take care of a living thing.
Gratitude is a learned skill. Help avoid selfishness and entitlement by nurturing gratitude.Learn More
Teach them how to express gratitude using details and information about their living thing.
I always try to say how thankful I am for our pets and garden. They are truly blessing from God and it’s an honor that He trusted us to take care of them.
Here a couple scriptures that I like to reference when teaching my children to care for living things:
The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.
#3. Taking Care of Living Things Builds Understanding of the World Around Us
I read a blog post one time of a young mother who had some neighborhood children over to her house on a play date.
The kids went out to gather eggs from the hen house.
One of the neighborhood kid’s confessed shortly after that she had always wondered where eggs come from.
It may seem far fetched, but things like this really happen. We live in a world that could potentially shelter children completely from the truth about animals, food, and other producer/consumer related topics.
Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should have egg producing chickens as pets. That’s just not feasible. But, what I am suggesting is that there are “real world” related concepts that are learned through caring for living things.
Topics such as:
- Animal safety
- Protection from heat/cold
- Survival essentials
- Understading what constitutes a living thing
- Food/harvest/producer knowledge
- Experiencing a death
#4. It’s Work
First of all, I am “of the persuasion” that kids benefit from hard work.
I mean… they are learning how to become responsible adults. You and I both know that it take hard work to be a productive and successful adult.
Allowing children to care for living things can be beneficial in teaching them the value of hard work. That is absolutely a life skill worth learning.
I believe this is especially true in the world that we live in. In our world, everything we could ever need or want is at our fingertips.
Here’s just a few things that “hard work” foster:
- Teaches collaboaration
- Builds physical strength
- Helps with the appreciation of material things
- Gives experiences & life skills
- Teaches the value of time
- Gives a sense of fulfillment and belonging
#5. Taking Care of Living Things is a Transferable Skill
Thinking of the ability to take care of things as a transferable skill goes back to our earlier discussion on empathy.
Essentially… if a child can learn to take care of a creature or plant, they show potential for becoming a wonderful caregiver.
A caregiver is someone who sees the needs of others (sometimes even before they do) and can be a tremendous asset to any situation they find themselves in.
This valuable life skill is one that doesn’t go away once learned. Now, I have heard stories about teenagers who forget their brains completely… but this isn’t what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the compassion and understanding that is built when a person becomes responsible for something that they love.
So, train them to respect and cherish their living things. Allow them to make mistakes of course. But… keep in mind that this list he training field for the rest of their compassionate life.
Things to Consider when Adopting Living Things
Consider these things when adopting pets with your little ones:
- the lifespan of the pet
- the space needed for the wellness of the animal
- care requirements and needs
- the cost of food and keep
- your child’s expectations for interaction with the pet
- your child’s personality
- options if your child looses interest in the pet
Here are some good pets (based on age):
- 4-7 year olds: parakeet, the crested gecko, pet store fish, hermit crab
- 8-11 year olds: canaries, finches, rabbits, guinea pigs
- 12-15 year olds: cats, dogs, bearded dragons, tortoises
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Farm/agriculture based pets for the household:
- vegetable garden
- herb garden