Whilst all our settings have toy animals, we believe there is no substitute for the real thing! Allowing children to interact with animals gives them the chance to learn in a greater, richer and in a more immersed way.
We love receiving visits from St. George’s Nursery’s super friendly dog – Julio. Previously we have also had visits from a range of different animals such as kittens, a barn owl, guinea pigs and chicks. We have and have had many ‘resident’ pets too at nursery, from snails and fish to caterpillars and rabbits!
It can be particularly beneficial for children with SEND but there are plenty of benefits that animals provide for all children – some are listed below!
Looking after pets and understanding and considering their needs is a huge building block to developing empathy. Pets teach children how to be gentle, compassionate and considerate, as well as to understand boundaries and the importance of caring for others, especially those that are unable to care for themselves. The children learn how to be patient with the animals and how to treat them kindly, which can in turn help them to understand to treat people in the same way.
By interacting with different animals, children are exposed to what else exists in the wider world, what their different needs are, and why we should care for them, all which links nicely with our curriculum.
We have found that many children, especially those that are usually more quiet, really come out of their shell. They are interested and intrigued and want to interact with the animal as well as with their peers.
The task of looking after a pet, and all the responsibilities that come with it, can help children to develop certain habits such as self-discipline and punctuality as well as tidiness. All of these can help children both in their home lives, nursery lives and later on in their lives.
Having a pet around builds on a child’s natural curiosity and encourages them to be more inquisitive as well as to question and interact and connect more.
In particular, animals can help children’s reading skills. Research has shown that children who may be reluctant to read out loud feel more confident reading to animals as they see them as a non-judgemental companion!
Pets are known to have calming qualities and stroking their fur has been found to act a form of therapy, leading to lower blood pressure, which subsequently can lower anxiety levels.
Furthermore, pets provide a sense of security, comfort and companionship, which again in turn reduces anxiety, apprehension or worry.
Having a pet in the classroom brings high levels of enjoyment and joy. Moreover, playing with pets often encourages children to be active promoting a healthy lifestyle.