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February is a great month to learn about love and the ways we care for others. Let's also take time to teach children about love for pets and ways to care for them.
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Explain to your child how some people use pets to help them. Dogs assist with hunting, herding, and guarding the house. Cats can solve a mouse problem. Birds used to carry messages. Can your child think of other ways pets help people?
Children can also use their bodies to move like common house pets (and think about how or if the movements are different). Do they know how to move like a cat, dog, rabbit, fish, guinea pig, or hamster? Do they know how to imitate animals that are not usually house pets such as a horse, pig, cow, elephant, lion, giraffe, snake, alligator, etc.? (The Preschool Calendar, 2000)
Good Read: Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
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Show how most people choose pets to be companions. It may help to think of pets as friends, or even as brothers and sisters. Pets make good company for playing, resting, walking, swimming. They like to be a part of the family! What does your pet like to do most? Or what does your child know about the pets of your family and friends?
Instruct children about the care and attention pets need. Teach them that pets need fresh food and water every day. They need plenty of play, rest, and love. Remind them that these are the same things children need, too. You may consider having your child help you care for the everyday needs of your pet. You can also ask your child what needs pets have that children don't and vice versa (what needs children have that pets don't).
Does your child know about veterinarians? Has he or she been with you to the vet before? There are many good children's books about what happens at the vet office. Your child can also explore veterinary care in dramatic play and dress-up. Set up a corner or just fill a basket with stuffed animals and child-friendly medical equipment (bandaids, stethoscope, play shots, white lab coat and/or scrubs, ace bandage, pretend x-ray, animal carrier, gloves -supervise this one, of course, etc.). If you have pets at home, be sure to set guidelines regarding your child's new veterinary practice with live pets!
Good Read: Millions of Cats by W. Gag
Good Read: Just Me and My Puppy by Mercer Mayer
Good Read: My Pet Dinosaur Won't Brush His Teeth by Sharlene Alexander
Photo credit Ramonaspetsitting.com
Pets are obviously much different than people. Talk with your children about how pets come in different sizes, shapes, colors, textures and patterns, but in a much different way than people do! Classify the qualities you can see in pets. Tear out pictures from old magazines or newspapers, find them on the internet, or look for them while on a walk in your neighborhood.
Assist your child in classifying in various ways or come up with your own together:
1. Group small, medium, and large pets.
2. Identify which pets are dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and fish.
3. Sort white, black, brown, and yellow pets.
4. Find curly-haired, straight-haired, fuzzy, rough, scratchy, feathered, moist, and soft pets.
5. Look for pets with stripes, spots, and multiple colors.
6. Sort pets by the sounds they make. Are any of them the same? Which ones are loud and soft; pleasant, scary or annoying?
Your child will have so much fun and learn all about comparing and contrasting animal attributes.
Good Read: Wet Pet, Dry Pet, Your Pet, My Pet by Dr. Seuss
Good Read: Bark George by P. Sis
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6: 26-27
"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth." Genesis 8: 11