Your kids might take a break from studying facts and figures during their summer breaks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to learn. Playing with pets teaches kids important life skills they can’t learn in a book. Studies show spending time with a family pet gives children a greater sense of empathy and teaches children responsibility. Last, but certainly not least, it also gives your kids and your cat or dog much-needed exercise.
Here are ten ideas on how you can get your kids playing with pets this summer:
The Family Dog: A Kid’s Best Friend
Teach a New Trick: Your local library will have books on training animals. Get one for your child with the goal of teaching a few tricks to your pup over the summer. This will not only help your dog learn a new trick, but it will help your child learn a new skill, as well as patience.
Play Hide-and-Seek: Distract your dog inside while your child hides outside. Then let your dog outside and let them sniff out his two-legged friend. Make sure to reward your dog with scratches or their favorite toy for a job well done!
DIY Backyard Obstacle Course: Cardboard boxes, play tunnels, a hula hoop and a pool noodle can all be repurposed into a backyard obstacle course that your child and dog can learn to master together.
Sprinkler Fun: Dogs and kids are both likely to be entertained running through the sprinkler. It will also keep everyone cool during hot summer days.
Reading Practice: If your little one is learning to read, who’s a better audience than a patient, non-judgmental, four-legged listener? Have a no-stress, daily storytelling time to practice reading skills.
Kitty and Kiddie Playtime
Build a Cat Fort: Collect cardboard boxes to craft a creative cat fort: cut holes, tape them together, color the cardboard. All of it adds to a great way to spend a summer day. Watch your cat learn to make their way through the maze, perhaps with the help of treats or favorite toys. With large enough boxes, your child and your cat can enjoy a dark oasis to let their imaginations run wild. Just be sure to assist so that they are secure and do not collapse on your cat.
Teach Your Cat to Fetch: Cats love to hunt all sorts of things, scrunched up pieces of paper and milk lids for example. Kids can teach cats to play fetch with a favorite item by simply sitting on the floor, tossing it and seeing what happens. Some cats might not get the concept, and may go play with the toy independently, but over time repetition can help your cat understand the game. They will learn that as they bring the toy back to your child, it “comes to life” every time your child throws it.
Light Tag: Cats love to chase lights. Give your child a mirror and find a ray of sunlight. Reflecting the light on the floor and watching your kitty in a playful frenzy is sure to incite giggles. Turn down the lights and provide your kiddo with a flashlight, and watch your cat try to catch the beam. Just be sure to remind your kids to never shine the light in the cat’s eyes. It can also be a good idea to reward your cat in some way when the game is over since they can become frustrated that they can never catch the light.
Cat Car: Securely tie a piece of string, banner or feather to a remote-controlled car and send it whizzing by your kitty for an irresistible target. Again, for your cat’s safety make sure the car isn’t too fast, the string is secure and that your child never drive the car into the cat. And be very sure the cat does not eat the string!
Catch the Duster: Combine your chores with cat fun. All your child needs is a feather duster and a feisty kitty to combine cleaning time and playtime. You may have to supervise this game a little closer — you don’t want your children dusting a shelf with little knick-knacks that both kid and cat could potentially knock off and break.
Summer is a great time to help kids bond with their pets because they have lots of energy and time to spend together. The weather is usually nice allowing for outdoor activities between kids and dogs, and being home from school helps break up the monotony of the day for cats. With a little ingenuity and care, your pets and kids can have a blast this summer.