Pets in Child Care

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Having a pet in the daycare or preschool classroom can be an educational as well as a fun experience. An animal friend in the classroom can help children learn compassion, responsibility, and many scientific concepts. Here are some guidelines for making this a positive experience.

Questions to Ask

  • Do you want to have a pet the children can pick up and handle?
  • How much are you willing to spend on the care of this pet?
  • Who will be involved in its care and feeding?
  • What will you do if the animal gets sick?
  • Who will care for it over long holiday weekends?

Learn More About the Pet

It is extremely important to research different types of pets to find out what would be the best fit for your classroom. Below are some links to get you started on your research.

Welcoming a Pet

  • Demonstrate How to Handle an Animal. - Children can learn how to be gentle through direct instruction and role modeling. Explain that animals can feel pain.
  • Show How Animals Need Respect. - Like children, the pet will need quiet times and play times. Sometimes they will need to leave the animal alone. Explain how the pet has many of the same basic survival needs as they do. Allow them to participate in basic care such as feeding or changing bedding for the pet.

Heath and Safety Issues

These guidelines are not to take the place of your state's or locality's child care regulations and laws. They are just general tips for protecting the health and safety of the children.

  • Be sure the pet is in good health, shows no evidence of disease, and is friendly toward children.
  • Keep the animal's cage, bed or nest clean at all times. All pet waste should be disposed of immediately.
  • Only allow children to handle the pet when you can supervise them.
  • Show children safe behavior. They need to learn not to tease or harass the pet.
  • Be sure to alert parents before they enroll their child in your class. Some children have allergies or fears of that animal.
  • Everyone must wash their hands after handling pets or pet items.

© 2004 Joni Levine