Montessori at Home: Taking Care of a Pet

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“Solicitous care for living things affords satisfaction to one of the most lively instincts of the child’s mind. Nothing is better calculated than this to awaken an attitude of foresight.”

Dr. Maria Montessori

We know that many of our House on the Hill families have pets, so this month’s Montessori at Home activity is especially for you! Care of the environment, including care of plants and animals, is part of the practical life curriculum and an important part of Montessori education. 

Having your child take care of family pets can be a way of bringing the Montessori philosophy into your home. It develops several skills along with many positive character traits, which helps in the development of the “whole child.” 

In our schools, we have adopted various living creatures in our classrooms, where they are cared for in a happy and safe environment. At the same time, our students are able to reap the benefits of exposure to our class pets! 

Five Ways Pets Support Montessori Learning

    1. 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 the Montessori Philosophy, which teaches the interconnectedness of all things.
    1. Having pets to care for helps children 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.
    1. Learning grace and courtesy in the way they treat animals helps children extend those concepts to their interactions with others. Children get to practice using gentle touches with animals by petting them softly and treating them respectfully.
    1. Ability to understand and properly 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 comment could be made to the child: “That sound the bunny is making is him asking for space. Let’s give him some room to feel safe.”
    1. Having an animal at home allows children to develop the skills they’ll need when studying science and other subjects in the future. For example, children get to observe the animal’s habits, grow in curiosity, ask questions, look for clues, make hypotheses and find answers.

Introduction to Activity

Encouraging children to take part in the care of a family pet is a wonderful way of empowering children. The values that are introduced to a child through caring for animals will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

Including live animals in a child’s daily life enhances their abilities to learn responsibility, empathy and compassion for other living things, respect for life, and the natural development of living things. In addition to being a loving companion, pets provide a comfort and solace in times of stress.

Materials Needed:

    • Pet Food
    • Pet Grooming Kit
    • Pet Toys (optional)

Part One: Cleaning & Prepping Pet Food Area

For this activity, involve your child in washing your pet’s food area.  

Ensure to explain to your child why it is important that the food area is cleaned often.  

After showing your child how to clean it, show how much food is needed to be placed in it and how many times a day/a week your pet needs to be fed.

Part Two: Cleaning & Grooming Your Pet

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, stressed, sad, angry, or just unpleasant in general, one of the things you may do is pamper yourself. It may be as simple as taking a shower, or it could be getting a facial, manicure, or massage. 

These things will almost always help cheer us up and get us feeling better and healthier. It’s the same for our pets! They need to be properly groomed and pampered in order to feel healthy and happy. 

Making sure your pet is clean and groomed regularly is important for your pet’s health and wellbeing, as well as their appearance. In cases of cats and dogs for example, an untended coat can become long, matted, and uncomfortable for your pet. 

Grooming helps rid the coat of shed hair and dead skin while spreading natural oils. Show your child and get them involved when giving your pet a bath and show them how to properly groom your pet after.

Don’t forget to explain to them how often it needs to be done as well.

 

 

Part Three: Playing with your Pet

Children learn grace and courtesy in the way they treat animals and this in turn helps children extend those concepts to their interactions with others. 

Children get to practice using gentle touches with animals by petting them softly and treating them respectfully. 

Show your child how to play with your pet with the pet toys available as well as how to handle them gently.

Taking care of animals is a way for children to learn how to take care of themselves. They can learn life skills, how to communicate and understand speech, and become more independent. Pets and animals also support the development of sensory awareness, physical coordination, and motor skills.  Learning to care for something else takes self-control and coordination. Children also start to practice responsibility and respect when they’re looking after animals. It takes a lot of work to keep up with a pet or animal!

On a deeper note, animals are living creatures. Realistically, this means that they are likely to potentially face illness or injury, and in practical terms, death. For young children, there are lessons to be learnt here as well. Social & Emotional development begins at a very young age — these skills help guide our emotions and feel empathy, as well as building healthy relationships. This helps children to recognize if someone is sad, and ask if they are ok; helps them with understanding their thoughts and feelings, and develops their ability to relate to others.

In these circumstances, we encourage parents to take the opportunity to be honest about illness and mortality. Address the inevitable questions children will have and discuss the emotions they are feeling. As part of the grieving process, let your child honor the role the pet has played in the family by asking them to share memories of enjoyable moments together. There is no timeframe for loss and they will feel better with time. Having a pet at home can help the child grow and develop many life skills that will be significant in their growing up years.  

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