There comes a time in every child's life when the nurturing love they have for stuffed animals and dolls shifts to focus on something living and breathing. It is a natural progression, but it is one that does not come with a set of instructions. Building the level of confidence and responsibility it takes to keep something alive requires practice.
It is best to start small. In this case, it is smallest of creatures that teach us the biggest lessons.
One of the best starter pets is a fish. No, it doesn't have fur to pet or play fetch or snuggle. But it also doesn't go to the bathroom on the floor if someone forgets to take it out, it won't get loose if someone forgets to close the door, and it won't decide to make a meal of your shoes when it doesn't get fed on time.
Taking care of a fish is about as basic as it gets, even more so than other small animals. There are a few flakes tossed in the bowl once a day and occasional bowl cleaning, if need be. Let's face it, when a child gets a pet, a parent usually ends up with more on their own chore list. A fish though is low-maintenance!
Fish don't take a lot of care but they do offer a lot of fun. These little creatures are eye catching and quick, giving your child something to watch. They respond to outside influences, coming to the top of the water or side of the bowl to interact with your child. These are the starter lessons that teach the cause and effect of caring about something outside of yourself. Plus depending on which type of fish you get for your home, there are so many things your child can learn about the ocean, marine life and underwater animals.
If letting your child maintain the fish tank is too daunting, simply let the child feed the fish with a few sprinkles of fish food. For small pre-school children, caring for a fish can help them learn about having a routine. You can create a chore chart for feeding and cleaning the bowl.
All of these actions create a connection to the pet and an appreciation for the time it takes to care for them. With the proper equipment and knowledge, your child will learn some pretty important facts of life and you'll be creating new family memories along the way!