Growing up on a farm as a kid, animals and 'house pets' were part of daily life. If we wanted chooks and fresh eggs from home, it was my job to feed them food scraps and check their water each day. When orphaned poddy lambs came up to the house, it was our job as kids to ensure they had a bottle of milk morning and night. The work dogs had to be fed; and Spot, our favourite home dog required some loving when we got off the school bus!
Looking back, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to spend my childhood years with animals. I have so many wonderful, and some quite hilarious, memories of my childhood pets. What I didn't quite understand at the time, is the important lessons that are drawn from looking after animals and pets.
Don't get me wrong, taking care of animals is hard yakka! I'm not here to convince all parents to head out and purchase that miniature pony your child has been asking for, for Christmas. I understand pets or animals aren’t suitable for all families in every instance. Perhaps your family lives in an apartment, allergies permit you from homing an animal, or your child has a fear of animals.
A great way to discover these lessons, and provide an alternative to pet ownership, is by educating children about animals and pets through videos, toys, role play and books such as those found in the George the Farmer series.
From chickens in George the Farmer Egg Enigma picture storybook, the importance of bees and their ‘bee vomit’ in George the Farmer Beehive Breakout, to the companionship Jessie the Kelpie brings George in several of our books, there’s a lot to learn! We’ve rounded up 5 top reasons why animals are important in kids' lives.
1. Responsibility, empathy, and compassion
Having a pet is a daily commitment and bringing our kids in on this commitment is a great way to teach the importance of dependability and responsibility. Just like humans, our pets require food, water, and exercise each day — so bringing our kids along for this ride is a great way to challenge leadership, time keeping, and responsibility. Animals can also be very emotional, just like our kids. Forming a bond helps children understand animals which can correlate to empathising with their mates through life. Much like in George the Farmer Beef Bonanza when the Farmer family heads north for the biggest beef show in the Southern Hemisphere and floods threaten their road trip, George is quick to jump to action — protecting his animals on board their truck. George places his animal’s needs alongside his family’s, taking responsibility for their safety and demonstrating empathy and care for his livestock.
This one is straightforward, and I'm sure you can relate. When we welcome a pet into our home, they quickly become a part of the family. My dog Spot was my lifelong companion in animal form. She was a great listener to me as a kid, accompanied me outside for the countless hours I spent practising shooting goals for netball, and always had time for a cuddle. It's unconditional love. When I now think of my childhood, and home for that matter, I think of my animals and know it wouldn't feel like a home without my ‘Spot the Dog’. As evident in many of our books, puzzles, and card games, Jessie the Kelpie is always close to her best friend, George the Farmer’s side. She’s George’s trusty companion in farm life, to which many of our little ones can relate to.
3. It teaches kids to put someone else's needs first
Nurturing others is a skill that is developed and needs to be practised. In our fast-paced world, there’s less opportunity for kids to nurture and provide for other living things, aside from pets. Taking good care of their pets allows children to practice caregiving skills. This promotes positive behaviour in our children when it comes to helping others, understanding the needs of those around them, and demonstrating empathy. This is reinforced in George the Farmer Egg Enigma where we learn how chickens need to be cared for with food, water, and shelter for them to be happy and lay their delicious eggs
4. How to be active
Living with technology at our fingertips can decrease our kids' capacity and willingness to spend their evenings or weekends, fully outside. The daily dog walks, feeding cattle on the farm, getting in on the shearing shed action, or just walking in the backyard to collect the eggs, are all great opportunities for kids to get some much-needed outdoor time. We all know the benefits of getting the kids outside for some fresh air and physical activity — and it's proven, with pets, they're more likely to head outside if they have furry companions.
5. Teaches kids about life
An underestimated benefit of animals is the incredible lessons they can teach our children about different stages of life. For example, chickens lay eggs, some of which have been fertilised and hatch as baby chicks, while unfertilised ones are lovingly added to our banana and choccie cakes, just like in George the Farmer Egg Enigma.
Meanwhile, our dairy cows produce milk which we explore in Dairy Dilemma. The basic biology to be learned and understood here is amazing, and kids pick up on it quite quickly.
We capture several stages in the animal life cycle in our picture storybooks; think caring for sheep by shearing their wool in George the Farmer Shears a Sheep, looking after our bees in George the Farmer Beehive Breakout, or keeping our chickens happy so they produce more googy eggs!
So, whether you’re looking to make a furry addition to the family, or finding ways to educate your child on animals, George the Farmer is here to help! From animal-friendly jigsaw puzzles to our wonderful books or educational YouTube clips, we have something to pique the interest in each little one!
*Image credit: @ourtribeofgals Instagram