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Everyone loves pets. Well, most of us. According to a
survey from Animal
Medicines Australia
, a whopping 64% of Australian households own a pet. To
put that into numbers, that’s more than five million dogs, four million cats,
five-and-a-half million birds, eleven million fish and hundreds of thousands of
small mammals, reptiles and insects. In total, there’s over 29
million pets
which is more than the population of Australia!

It’s clear that Australians are pet crazy, as two thirds of
households without pets reported wanting one, and almost 90% of pet owners said
their furry friends had a positive impact on their lives. But what exactly are
these benefits? (Other than late night cuddles, of course).

As it turns out, pets may bring about a wealth of
psychological and developmental benefits. And it’s not just for you – many
studies have suggested children may benefit most from pets such as increased
empathy, reduced anxiety, a greater understanding of responsibility and even
heightened cognitive function.

Empathy

 

One of the most important lessons for childhood development is empathy. It teaches children that the world extends beyond themselves to a network of individuals with their own beliefs, emotions and desires. Children begin grappling with empathy as early as two years old, and it teaches them that their actions and responses to situations have a direct impact on how others feel and why that’s important.

 

This is also known as emotional intelligence (EQ). Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman argues that EQ is even more important to future success in children than IQ. Goleman lists the five areas of EQ:

  1. Self-regulation
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Empathy
  4. Motivation
  5. Social skills


Numerous studies have highlighted how introducing animals to children at an early age
increases levels of empathy, predominately among those who care for both cats and dogs, and even more so for horse and bird owners.

Pets have also regularly been linked to decreased
depression
, anxiety and negative thought patterns across all age groups.

Teaching Responsibility

Pets teach children that not everything will be given to them, and that they have power and responsibility over other living things. Pets need food, water, exercise, shelter, attention and love – lots and lots of
love!

This is a confronting concept for toddlers, so pets provide a safe entry point into deconstructing their relationships with other living beings. They see how receptive animals are to affection, which can be a
steppingstone for them to transfer these skills to the more complex social
interactions with peers, educators and society at large.

While these lessons are important, it’s vital for parents to also exercise responsibility when introducing children to pets. Dr Hayley Christian of the University of Western Australia outlines that while
younger children, particularly between ages two and five, learn a great deal from pets, they must be under parental supervision at all times:

‘Never leave your child unsupervised with a pet. Young children are still learning so many things. Teaching them from an early age to read dog and cat body signs is important. Also, how to be gentle and how to interact with dogs in public including how to greet them.’

 

Improve Cognitive Function

 

Studies have suggested how pet ownership may bring about physical benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, however more recent studies are discovering that they may also have cognitive boosts. According to neurologist Dr.
Tiffany Braley
, “results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.” This could lead to improved memory, problem-solving abilities and concentration – all key skills for the future success of your child.

Pets also encourage children to articulate their thoughts and feelings which develops rational thinking skills and socialisation. As pets don’t judge, criticise or spill your darkest secrets, children see pets as confidants and articulate their anxieties in a safe, controlled environment. 

Dr. Christian argues that this may boost ‘educational and social development in
children and adolescents’ that own pets which ‘tend to have greater self-esteem, less loneliness, and enhanced social skills.’

 

Pets in Childcare

Childcare centres, kindergartens and primary schools are embracing class pets more and more as research continues to develop in EQ and the

role of empathy. In fact, the Australia Children’s Education & Care Quality
Authority have a detailed information sheet outlining the guidelines for childcare pets. The sheet also suggests
that ‘encouraging direct contact and developing bonds with animals can help
children build empathy’ and ‘learn about the life cycle and relationships and
improve communication.’

 

We wholeheartedly embrace pets at Explorers Early Learning, believing that they serve as the ‘Fourth Teacher’ (the first three being parents, educators, and the environment) which is one of the pillars of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Children at Explorers care for Centre pets, feed them, love them and even give them names!

 

Photo of Georgie (cockatoo)

 

Photo of Frank (fish)

 

Photo of Panino and Provolone (rabbits)

 

These lessons also extended beyond the Centre. Excursions to zoos, sanctuaries and parks are commonplace, and wildlife experts and environmentalists love visiting to share their knowledge and wisdom about how to live peacefully with the natural world around us.

So it doesn’t matter if you or your little ones prefer dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, snakes or spiders – it’s about caring for another life. This is the most valuable lesson pets teach both children and adults alike – the world is bigger than ourselves and that carries responsibility, so it pays to take care of each other… it may be more beneficial than you think. 

So it doesn’t matter if you or your littles ones prefer dogs, cats, fish, rabbit, snakes or spiders – it’s about caring for another life. This is the most valuable lesson pets teach both children and adults alike – the word is bigger than ourselves and that carries responsibility, so it pays to take care of each other… it may be more beneficial than you think.

The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is a payment made by the Victorian Government to childcare providers which is used to discount your fees. This payment is made directly to childcare providers who pass it on to families as a fee reduction. 

To apply for the CCS, you will need to login to your MyGov account. The amount paid is determined by the number of children you have, your hours of activity (work, study, volunteering, etc.) per fortnight and your household income. 

Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) is additional fee assistance on top of your Child Care Subsidy (CCS). If you meet the below criteria, you may be eligible for ACCS:  

  • You are an eligible grandparent getting an income support payment. 
  • You are transitioning from certain income support payments to work.   
  • You are experiencing temporary financial hardship.   
  • You are caring for a child who is vulnerable or at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.  
  •  

For more information, please click here.

Services Australia have a stepbystep guide on how to claim CCS through this link. You can commence your enrolment at Explorers prior to your CCS being approved. We recommend applying as soon as possible when you are considering childcare.  

You can contact the Centrelink families line on 136 150, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. For alternative contact methods, please click here.

Yes, even though you may have been approved for one or more children, you will need to lodge an additional claim when another child starts care.

You will need to log into your MyGov account online or through the Centrelink app. You will be to confirm your enrolment with Explorers through this service.

If there are any issues please contact Family Support Services, rather than selecting the dispute button.

Once you confirm the enrolment you will also need to notify Support Services by emailing the Centre email

The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is a payment made by the Victorian Government to childcare providers which is used to discount your fees. This payment is made directly to childcare providers who pass it on to families as a fee reduction. 

To apply for the CCS, you will need to login to your MyGov account. The amount paid is determined by the number of children you have, your hours of activity (work, study, volunteering, etc.) per fortnight and your household income. 

Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) is additional fee assistance on top of your Child Care Subsidy (CCS). If you meet the below criteria, you may be eligible for ACCS:  

  • You are an eligible grandparent getting an income support payment. 
  • You are transitioning from certain income support payments to work.   
  • You are experiencing temporary financial hardship.   
  • You are caring for a child who is vulnerable or at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.  
  •  

For more information, please click here.

Services Australia have a stepbystep guide on how to claim CCS through this link. You can commence your enrolment at Explorers prior to your CCS being approved. We recommend applying as soon as possible when you are considering childcare.  

You can contact the Centrelink families line on 136 150, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. For alternative contact methods, please click here.

Yes, even though you may have been approved for one or more children, you will need to lodge an additional claim when another child starts care.

You will need to log into your MyGov account online or through the Centrelink app. You will be to confirm your enrolment with Explorers through this service.

If there are any issues please contact Family Support Services, rather than selecting the dispute button.

Once you confirm the enrolment you will also need to notify Support Services by emailing the Centre email

The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is a payment made by the Victorian Government to childcare providers which is used to discount your fees. This payment is made directly to childcare providers who pass it on to families as a fee reduction. 

To apply for the CCS, you will need to login to your MyGov account. The amount paid is determined by the number of children you have, your hours of activity (work, study, volunteering, etc.) per fortnight and your household income. 

Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) is additional fee assistance on top of your Child Care Subsidy (CCS). If you meet the below criteria, you may be eligible for ACCS:  

  • You are an eligible grandparent getting an income support payment. 
  • You are transitioning from certain income support payments to work.   
  • You are experiencing temporary financial hardship.   
  • You are caring for a child who is vulnerable or at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.  
  •  

For more information, please click here.

Services Australia have a stepbystep guide on how to claim CCS through this link. You can commence your enrolment at Explorers prior to your CCS being approved. We recommend applying as soon as possible when you are considering childcare.  

You can contact the Centrelink families line on 136 150, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. For alternative contact methods, please click here.

Yes, even though you may have been approved for one or more children, you will need to lodge an additional claim when another child starts care.

You will need to log into your MyGov account online or through the Centrelink app. You will be to confirm your enrolment with Explorers through this service.

If there are any issues please contact Family Support Services, rather than selecting the dispute button.

Once you confirm the enrolment you will also need to notify Support Services by emailing the Centre email