5 Fun Ways Pets Can Help Children Learn All Summer
If your students – or their parents – are asking you for ideas for staying busy this summer, suggest that they try enlisting the help of some pets – their own as well as shelter pets and neighborhood pets - to keep kids reading, writing, and doing math all while they’re enjoying a few weeks away from school. Here are some ideas to get you started, and you'll find a printable version at the end of the article to send home with your students.
1. Walking Dogs
Walking the family dog should be on every kid’s chore list for the summer, whether the child is old enough to go by himself or if he’s accompanying a parent or older sibling as they walk the dog. The exercise benefits everyone, and there are fun ways to incorporate games and challenges into it, using math skills. The student may not even realize he’s practicing math because it will be so much fun!
Parents might consider purchasing an inexpensive pedometer for kids to wear while walking the dog. Create challenges like taking 1,000 steps per walk. Make a chart so kids can keep track of the steps they’ve taken over the course of a week, and then offer a reward once they’ve reached a certain number of steps. Bonus: have them try to figure out how many steps the dog takes, too (hello, multiplication!).
Students can also use apps on a smart phone to map their dog walking routes and keep track of how far they’ve walked. There are some dog walking apps like Woof Trax that earn money for shelter pets each time you take your dog for a walk. ResQWalk is another popular option.
Adding the tech element is sure to make the dog walking more fun, get kids moving, and help keep their number skills sharp over summer break.
2. Writing Stories About Adoptable Pets
It’s a challenge to get most kids to practice writing over the summer, but if you find something fun to write about, there’s a better chance your students will change their tune.
Ask students to visit their local humane society’s web site and choose an adoptable animal to write a story about. Encourage them to imagine where the pet came from, how the pet ended up in the shelter, and predict what kind of family might be good for him (who knows? Maybe it’s the student’s own family!).
Then, have kids visit the shelter to meet the pet in person and deliver the story to shelter personnel. Shelters love receiving work from kids, and they may even hang the child’s story next to the pet’s cage to entice would-be adopters.
This kind of recognition might be just the motivation your students need to keep up their writing practice over the summer.
3. Reading to Pets at Home… or at a Shelter
If you have students who are enthusiastic readers, suggest that they try reading to the pets in their own families. Sometimes reading to a non-judgmental animal who’s often content to simply sit and listen, helps build a young reader’s confidence.
Some libraries offer “Reading to Rover” programs where kids can practice their skills with therapy dogs. These programs are so much fun for both the two-legged and four-legged participants. Check your local library to see if something like this is available for your students.
And, some shelters and humane societies have reading programs where kids can visit adoptable pets and read to them. This type of interaction has proven helpful to young readers, as well as to the pets that enjoy the company and the socialization. This is also a great way to get kids involved in philanthropic practices at an early age.
Check out the website Crayons and Collars for a database of humane societies across the country that offer programs for kids to see if there’s one near you.
4. Earning Money by Pet Sitting
Lessons about earning and saving money are valuable for kids of all ages! Suggest that students set up a vacation pet sitting or dog walking business, as this is a good way for responsible, animal-loving kids to learn the value of money, plus other great lessons like keeping commitments, managing responsibility, and more. Oh, and don’t forget the ever-present math lessons when it comes to anything money-related.
Obviously, pet sitting or dog walking is more appropriate for older kids, unless a parent or older sibling is willing to be the child’s “business partner,” which could be fun, too!
No matter what age your students are, suggest that parents work closely with them when it comes to the money they’re earning, how much they’re saving (this is a good way to work on percentages!), and how much they’re pocketing. Kids can benefit from consistent reinforcement about good money management from teachers and parents alike.
5. Holding a Donation Drive
Summer is a great time for kids to learn about philanthropy. Animal shelters always need supplies and many of the things they need can be found secondhand in our own homes. Encourage your students to open their hearts and give to those in need!
With adult supervision and guidance, students can hold a supply drive in their own neighborhood to collect things that neighbors may not need but the shelter can use, like old sheets, towels, and other items.
Suggest that parents sneak in some math practice by working with their kids to create goals for items collected, and then keep track of the number of items they collect for their shelter.
Some shelters make toys for the pets in their care using empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Some collect milk jug caps to use as cat toys, and some make toys out of empty plastic water bottles. These are all things students can collect from friends, neighbors, and family without asking for a dime! Check with your local shelter to see what kind of supplies they need.
Recommend that students organize the collected supplies into categories, tally up the number of items, and then proudly deliver the donations to their local organization. I promise, that will be an experience these kids won’t forget.
Free Printable Checklist!
Download this free printable checklist with these 5 fun ways pets can help children learn all summer long! Teachers, send it home with your students to share with their parents, and you'll help them avoid the academic "summer slide!"
Christina Berry lives in Indianapolis where she is a wife, mom, Virtual Assistant and Social Media Strategist, Pet Lifestyle Blogger, movie lover, and recovering Diet Dr. Pepper addict. She loves helping bloggers and handmade shop owners create successful businesses, and she enjoys advocating for pets as a volunteer with her local humane society and a Pit Bull rescue. She blogs at The Lazy Pit Bull.