Want a responsible child? Get them a pet

It turns out a pet just might be the gift that keeps on giving

Want a responsible child? Get them a pet

Thinking of surprising your little one with a brand new puppy under the tree? It turns out that just might be the gift that keeps on giving.

Giving your child something to take care of, like a pet or even a houseplant, helps him learn responsibility. Just make sure to include him in the work, as well as the fun.

This is one reason that most Montessori classrooms include at least one class pet. Many include a pet from each class of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) as well as an invertebrate like a class tarantula or hermit crabs.


Of course, teaching responsibility should not be the sole reason for bringing home a family pet. It’s a big decision that should only be made if you can offer the love and attention an animal requires. If you’re thinking it over though, know that there are many benefits to your child, beyond the joy on his face when he sees his new companion.

What are the benefits?

One reason Montessori teachers include so many animals in the classroom is to allow children to see science up close. There is no better way to learn about different lifeforms than by observing them, and children in Montessori classrooms do just that. Sitting and observing a class animal, perhaps drawing or writing about what they see, is a common choice for Montessori kids.

The benefits of including animals in your environment, at school or at home, go far beyond learning about science though. In Montessori classrooms, children are involved in every part of animal care. They gain responsibility and a strong sense of pride through taking care of another living being. They learn firsthand that caring for a living creature takes work, but also brings considerable joy.

Children are so often the ones being cared for, having a pet is a great opportunity for them to learn to care for someone else.

So how can children help?

Most children are eager to help care for pets if you show them how. Of course they’ll want to play with their new companion, but they can do so much more to contribute to its wellbeing.

1. Preparation

Try involving your child in the process of choosing and preparing for his new pet. You don’t have to let him choose anything he wants, but you might offer two or three options that you’d be comfortable with. Then help him research what the pet will need to thrive and set up the habitat together. He’ll be learning responsibility before the pet even enters your house.

2. Feeding

Even a very small child can help feed animals. If your little one is too young to give a reasonable portion of food, set aside the right amount or get a scoop that’s just the right size and let him feed the fish or fill the dog bowl.

In Montessori classrooms, children as young as three also enjoy preparing fresh produce, like apples or carrots, to give to class pets. They scrub the produce, peel it if necessary, and carefully chop it before watching with delight as the beloved animal enjoys the fruits of their labor.

3. Playing

This is of course the most fun and easiest part of having a pet. Through playing with animals, children learn to be gentle, and it helps them have empathy for animals they encounter in the wild. You can also talk about how animals need to move their bodies to be healthy, just like people.

According to the CDC, having a pet supports a healthy lifestyle through increasing opportunities for exercise, among other health benefits.

4. Cleaning

While certain parts of cleaning animal habitats should be kept for older children or adults, children as young as three can help scrub a pet’s food or water bowl. While this task may seem onerous to an adult, children often delight in the chance to help.

What if you’re just not an animal person?

Confession: While I’ve seen the benefits of pets in the classroom countless times, I’m not really a pet person. I love animals, but enjoy watching them in the wild more than having them in my home. Maybe it’s because I’m allergic to many animals, maybe it’s because I hate the thought of having more cleaning added to the list.

Even if you’re not a pet person though, there are still things you can do to offer your child the benefits.

Keep it simple

While many think of a dog or cat as the classic pet for a child, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’re looking for a pet that requires less work and expense, a fish or guinea pig might be a good option. They generally require substantially less effort, and still provide your child the joy of taking care of a living creature.

Try a short term pet

If you’re not ready to have a lifelong companion join your family, try butterflies! Through sites like this one, you can order caterpillars, feed them and watch them form a chrysalis and transform into a butterfly. This allows your child the experience of caring for something, with a commitment of only a few weeks.

Similarly, you could have pet tadpoles and release them when they turn into frogs (just make sure, they’re a local species). Or, offer to pet-sit for a friend or neighbor and bring your child along.

Volunteer at an animal shelter

If you don’t have the space or inclination for pets in your home, try taking your child to volunteer at an animal shelter. She’ll experience taking care of animals and do a whole lot of good too.

Plant the seed

Animals are not the only thing that can teach children responsibility. Taking care of plants has huge benefits as well. You might try getting your child his own plant to keep in his room and take care of, or involve him in planting and caring for a garden.

However you choose to do it, giving your child the chance to care for something can be a really fun and rewarding way to teach responsibility.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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