Many teachers wonder about the benefits of adding a pet to their classroom – will it really stimulate learning and provide emotional and developmental benefits? The subject of children’s bond with pets has been studied repeatedly over the last fifty years, in an effort to learn more about this special relationship.
To the casual observer it might seem obvious that children walking into a classroom would be excited by and gravitate to a live creature. Children are naturally curious, and seeing something new is exciting. But studies have shown that the bond between children and pets goes far beyond curiosity. In a 1998 study of the emotional bond between children and pets, Sandra L. Triebenbacher concluded that “The benefits of pet ownership and attachment to animals include minimizing emotional trauma, helping to alleviate some emotional problems as well as fear and loneliness, to lessen anxiety during times of stress, to promote good mental and physical health for both children and adults, and provide noncontingent unconditional love and opportunities for affection.”
Triebenbacher found that children conveyed their love to animals through touch and through care-giving responsibilities such as feeding. In his 1995 paper on classroom animals, Craig Naherniak concluded, “If there is one thing that is most important for children to realize, it is that they share a world with other beings who have needs similar but not identical to theirs. This understanding helps to develop the child’s confidence, empathy and respect for others.” Having a pet in the classroom allows teachers to provide children with ways to develop these valuable skills.
For more information on how teachers can provide thier students with the opportunity to develop through a classroom pet, visit www.PetsintheClassroom.org.