Are Pets Good for Young Children?

by Lee Scott, Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member
Small child feeding a treat to an orange and white cat

Owning a pet can have many advantages and a few disadvantages as well. The type of pet is also a consideration when you have little ones. Are pets good for young children? 

Benefits of Pets for Children 

Recent research published in Pediatric Research in July 2020 explained the physical and social-emotional benefits of family dog ownership for preschoolers. The children with dogs in the study were more physically active and exhibited more prosocial behaviors than children who did not have a family dog. The benefits do not only extend to dog ownership. Children with all types of pets learn responsibility, respect, empathy and companionship and discover nature and biology. Children’s pets become part of the family and the family routines. Children can learn valuable social lessons by focusing on another’s needs instead of just their own. 

Health and Safety with Pets 

While there are many benefits to pets, you will want to ensure your children are safe. Younger children are more likely to get diseases from pets, so a little caution can go a long way. Washing your hands before feeding your child and after handling your pet, keeping your little ones away from the animals when the pets are eating and cleaning pacifiers and toys if the pet gets at them before handing them back to your baby are a few steps you can take to keep things safe.  

Not Your Average Pet 

Not everyone can get a dog or a cat. There are smaller pets that are appropriate for young children, such as goldfish or hamsters. You can also substitute objects for pets if necessary. The pet can be a favorite stuffed animal or even a rock! Here are a few favorite books to share with your children about some unusual pets. They may inspire your child to choose a pet that works for your family. 

  • Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans 
  • Who Wants a Tortoise? written by Dave Keane and illustrated by K.G. Campbell 
  • The Perfect Pet written by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Bruce Whatley 
  • Charlotte and the Rock written by Stephen W. Martin and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill 
  • Who Has a Pet Hedgehog? written by Jan Heng and illustrated by Tan Su En 
  • Cooper the Dog written by Adam Small and illustrated by Sara Noelle Delgado
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