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Summer Vacation: How Pets Can Help Kids Learn

Janelle Cox

During summer vacation, parents are most likely asking you what they can do at home to keep their children learning all summer long. The first thing that always springs to mind is, get them to read! While this may sound simple enough to a teacher, for many parents getting their child to read, or let alone do any kind of academic work in the summer, is quite a challenge. A great way to get kids learning this summer is by involving the family pet. If you don’t have a family pet, then a neighbor’s pet, or even one from your local shelter, will do. Finding ways to incorporate pet-related activities into the summer day can be the secret key to getting children to enjoy learning during the summer months. Here we will explore a few ways that pets can help children keep learning all summer long.

Summer Vacation Activities: Reading to Pets

Pets are much more than just furry friends that roll over and eat treats: They are really good listeners. If you have any reluctant readers who need a confidence boost, then encourage them to read to their pet. Sometimes all it takes is a nonjudgmental furry friend that will just simply listen to raise one’s confidence. A study from the University of California even confirmed that reading to your pet will actually improve your reading skills. Encourage parents who don’t have a family pet to look and see if their local library or pet shelter is having any summer “Reading to Rover” programs where their child can practice reading to their favorite four-legged friend. Not only will the child benefit from this experience, but the animal will get some companionship as well.

Walking the Family Pet

One of the nice things about being off of school during summer vacation is the weather. Children have the opportunity to get outdoors in the sunshine and get some exercise. Walking the family pet is a great way for children to sneak in some learning without them even realizing it. All children have to do is wear a pedometer or download an app like Map My Walk and they will be using their math skills before they even know it. Each day that they walk their pet, they can challenge themselves to take more steps on their pedometer, walk different routes, keep track of how far they have gone, or track what route that they have taken. Math can be intertwined in every step that they take. You can go even further and give children weekly challenges like figuring out how many steps their pet has taken. Walking is a physical exercise that benefits both the child and the pet.  Children can even download apps where they can earn money for pet shelters. By adding the element of technology, you are making walking the family pet that much more enjoyable.

Learn the Value of Money

Summertime is the best time to teach children the value of money. They can learn this valuable lifelong skill by pet sitting, pet walking, or creating a pet washing business. This is something that can be done from the comfort of their own home where parents can oversee the process. By creating their own pet business over the summer, they will learn lessons on responsibility, managing money, and so much more. Think of all of the things they will learn if they add in a business partner! Parents can work closely with their child to see how much they are earning, what they are saving, and what can go charity. Children will be using all of their math skills that they have learned in school, plus probably learn a few new ones. Good money managing skills are a tool that children can always use.

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Make Toys for Pets

Children can get their creative juices flowing by making pet toys. All they have to do is search around the house for empty cereal boxes, milk jug containers, toilet paper rolls, or paper towel rolls. They can add rice to milk jugs to make them shake, or feathers to toilet paper rolls for cats to pounce on.  Once they collect their supplies and create their toys they can either sell them or donate them to their local pet shelter. This hands-on activity is engaging the children’s brain. They are learning through their senses by touching, creating, and manipulating things.

The summertime can be tough to get children to want to learn. But, you can make it easy on them by simply telling them to simply go play with their dog. Pets can be a lot of fun and may be just be the key to getting and keeping students learning all summer long!

Do you have any pet-related activities that students will love to do during the summer months at home? Please share your ideas with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators