Caring for animals is a beautiful way to foster nurturing in children. Especially if a child has no experience at home with pets, exposure to a wide range of animal life in the classroom can benefit a child: from touching, observing, caring for, and making connections to the natural world, to understanding the delicacy and uniqueness of all life.
- When caring for pets, children learn how to express love, empathy, compassion, and respect for other living things. This is part of Cosmic Education – a cornerstone of Montessori Philosophy, which teaches the interconnectedness of all things.
- Having pets to care for helps students learn responsibility and gain self-confidence. Whether remembering to feed the pet on time or clean after it, children enjoy taking care of their little friends while learning how to be responsible and empowered.
- Learning grace and courtesy in how they treat animals helps children extend those concepts to their interactions with others. Kids get to practice using gentle touches with animals by petting them softly and treating them respectfully.
- The ability to understand and adequately interpret a non-verbal language is a special skill – and pets offer a great opportunity to master it. For example, when playing together with the pet, a guide might tell the child: “That sound the gecko is making is him asking for space. Let’s give him some room to feel safe.”
- Having an animal at home or in the classroom allows children to develop the skills they’ll need when studying science and other school subjects in the future. For example, students get to observe the animal’s habits, grow in curiosity, ask questions, look for clues, make hypotheses, and find answers.
Here are our pets, all of whom children are encouraged to help care for. They might give them food or water, mist cages, help refill a tank, add crickets, drop in pelleted food, etc. Our mammals appreciate a good brushing and a belly rub, too! In the future, we plan to add a toad, a fish tank, and in the spring, we try to hatch tadpoles in the classroom! I can’t wait to hatch our Monarch caterpillars!