Getting a new pet is really exciting for children. Encouraging your child to think ahead to what it will be like when their new pet arrives is a great way to get the relationship off to a good start. Channel that enthusiasm into some fun ways to plan for your new arrival with our top tips…
Every pet needs a name, and choosing one could be a family activity.
Encourage your child to get involved with the practical side of pet ownership by drawing up a shopping list of things your pet will need when they come to live with you. These could include a bed, food, toys, poo bags or litter trays etc.
Write down some doggy, kitty, bunny or other pet dos (or rules), specific to the species’ needs. Not only can this be fun to do together, but it is something you can easily refer back to if needed once your pet has come home. Ask your child to think about how your new pet might like to be treated and note these down, eg do be gentle when stroking [cat’s name], do leave [dog’s name] alone when they’re asleep, do make sure [rats’ names] always have enough water. If you don’t like the sound of dos, how about promises to the pet instead? You could turn the dos or promises into a poster and decorate it or colour it in.
If your child is a little young to understand written rules about pet care, they may get used to the idea of looking after a pet by caring for a toy animal. There are some lovely toys available that come with accessories such as a bowl, lead, cage, and these are great for encouraging children to have empathy towards animals. If you’re bringing home a kitten, consider getting a cat toy before your kitten comes home. Ask your child to think about what the ‘pet’ might like, and encourage them to brush and feed the toy.
Getting involved in choosing – or even making – a toy can help spark a conversation about why pets need to play. Bunny holt holes and cat pom poms are great fun to make. If your child gets pocket money, see if they might like to save up to buy a toy for their new pet so they can welcome them into the home.
Why not ask your child to write a letter to their new pet to let them know they are about to become part of a loving family?
Start a scrapbook. Take pictures, add drawings, write stories, paint, and remember funny things in the scrapbook from the first day the pet came into the home. This will be something nice to look back on over the years as a family.
Play the ‘If I were a pet’ game. Get your child to close their eyes and imagine the pet they are going to get. What would they like to have to welcome them into their new home? How would they like their new family to act? How might they be feeling on their first day and week in their new home with new surroundings?
Fun facts. Spend time as a family finding out lots of different things about the type of pet you’re getting and create a poster. Discuss how this might help you understand your pet more and what their likes and dislikes might be.
Pet hero. Encourage your child to be the new pet’s hero. Let them help introduce the pet to family and friends that visit. Your child could discuss the pet play rules and take friends and family through fun facts before they get to meet the pet.