Kids and Pets: How Owning a Pet Builds Character

kids and pets

It’s been nearly 2 months now since we made the leap to dog ownership, and what a fun 2 months it’s been! We waited a long time before taking the plunge, and now that we’re here, I have two things to say: I’m so glad we got a dog … and I’m so glad we waited.

We talk a lot on The Risky Kids about how important it is to us that we raise kids who are responsible and confident in their skills. And one really good way to give kids more responsibility and confidence is to put them in charge of something. When that something just happens to be a real, living thing … well, you can imagine the effect is magnified.

We’ve had “pets” before, of the fish variety, and I always used their sad stories to illustrate for the kids why I thought they weren’t ready for a dog or cat. You probably know the scenario: kid begs for pet, parents want minimal upkeep, fish is chosen as compromise, fish is exciting for 2.5 days, no one gives a crap about the fish anymore, fish dies. That, my friends, is the fish circle of life right there. The kids swore fish were different, they would be better about a real pet. You know, one they could actually pet? I was very, very skeptical.

They’ve been trying to wear me down on the puppy front for years, and finally all the pieces were in place. The house we moved in to has an invisible fence the previous owners installed and left behind. We knew we had our big trip to Spain coming up for nearly 2 years, and I told them we wouldn’t take on the responsibility of a dog and have to worry about finding someone to watch it for a month. Well, now the trip is behind us. Finally, I needed the kids to be fairly self-sufficient themselves.  I wanted them to be able to walk our neighborhood on their own, get their own food, and clean up their own messes before I signed up to walk, feed, and clean up another living being. Lo and behold, we got back from Spain and the kids were quick to point out that all my previous requirements had been met. What were we waiting for? And so with everything in place, we began looking for a dog that would be a good fit for our family. Soon after, we found Gus.

What do you know? The dog > fish theory my kids presented was actually right. I have been, quite frankly, blown away by Elena and Eli’s ability to care for an animal properly. Two months in, and here are just a few key areas of character I’ve seen the kids grow in:

Thinking of others

Having a dog puts certain constraints on what you can do and how long you can be gone. The kids have learned that we can’t leave the house all day and not make arrangements for the puppy. We can’t simply leave him in the crate for 10 hours and forget about him.

Taking care of daily responsibilities

There are some things that you always have to do, whether you feel like it or not. The puppy needs fed twice a day. He needs his water bowl filled. He needs played with and exercised daily. He needs to go outside to pee and poop many times a day. All these things need to be done, no matter the weather, your mood, the status of your social life, or the amount of homework you brought home.

The importance of putting things where they belong

Puppies are like toddlers – with an uncanny ability to sense what they shouldn’t have and then seek and destroy it. While we’ve been lucky that Gus hasn’t ruined anything of extreme importance (though he has great taste in socks – Smartwool, to be exact), the kids have learned that toys, socks, shoes, books, and electronic devices need to be put up and out of reach if they want to ensure their safety.

The consequences of shirking your duties

We had one very bad night where Elena was in charge of the puppy by herself. She got sucked into her iPod and neglected to watch Gus like she should. The result? He pooped and peed multiple times in the house. Which leads me to …

Taking care of unpleasant tasks

We could’ve have easily scolded her and then cleaned up ourselves. It would’ve been faster and less filled with tween dramatics. But there’s a valuable lesson to be had here. Sometimes life hands you nasty stuff you don’t want to deal with, but you have to. Dogs poop, and it needs to be scooped. Just like one day you’ll have to clean someone else’s pee off a toilet, or change a dirty diaper, or wash someone else’s dishes.

The reward of a job well done

This is where taking care of a dog really shines. Because the kids have invested the time and effort into feeding, walking, and playing with Gus, he rewards them in the best of all ways: with lots of love, snuggles and puppy kisses. Of course, I’ve been doing that their entire lives, but when it comes from a dog? So much better.

Not only are these skills important to learn in order to take care of a pet, they’re absolutely necessary for living a happy, productive, and well-adjusted life! Teach them now, and your kids’ siblings, teachers, friends, future roommates, bosses and spouses will thank you later.

Now, I would never suggest you get a pet just to teach your kids responsibility or to build their confidence. Adding a pet to your family is a huge, long-term commitment, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve been thinking about it, and you’re ready on all fronts except for wondering if the kids will benefit? Then by all means, take the leap!

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New Kiwi Crates Have Hatched!

Kiwi Crate

We’ve been loyal Kiwi Crate subscribers for over 2 years now. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a day that was quickly headed south was saved by pulling out the latest Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate catapult

Even though I pin tons of crafty activities onto Pinterest, I wouldn’t call myself a crafty person. This is why I love Kiwi Crate so much. They take the best crafts for kids, tailor them to themes kids love, pack it up in a handy box, and deliver it to your front door. You get everything you need, avoiding the inevitable meltdown when you’ve built up a super-fun craft only to realize you are FRESH out of googly-eyes. A few other things I love about Kiwi Crate:

    • The materials that come inside the Crates are really high quality … like, nicer than stuff I would actually buy my own kids. Thanks to our Kiwi Crate subscription, we’ve managed to stock our art supply cabinet with great arts and craft supplies that my kids love to use. Besides arts and crafts items, we’ve collected some really cool tools for tinkering as well, such as test tubes, droppers, and ping pong balls.
    • Oftentimes, the craft projects themselves end up being things the kids play with over and over again. We once made our own gameboard, which Eli still plays. Penguin bowling is still a hit, too.

Kiwi Crate penguin bowling

  • Most of the time, the kids can do the craft with little to no assistance from me. Win-win for all of us.
  • You can add a sibling box if you want to be absolutely sure that all the kids have enough materials, but I’ve yet to receive a box that didn’t provide enough for both of my kids to do the craft at least once.
  • Speaking of siblings, sometimes that hour or so they spend on a Kiwi Crate craft is the only time they get along for the entire day. Or week.
  • You can squirrel the box away and save it for when you really need it. I often stash the crate in the closet as soon as it’s delivered, and save it for one of those days. You know, when you’ve been snowed in for 3 days straight, when you’ve banned all screens, when everything you suggest to do is B-O-R-I-N-G. Of course, good luck to you if the kids catch sight of you before you can hide it. Mine drop everything to tear into it.
  • If you need a break from the subscription (school gets busy, money gets tight, life happens), you can pause it at any time.

Kiwi Crate crafts

For all these reasons and more, I’ve been recommending Kiwi Crate to everyone with kids, or who knows a kid (It definitely made last year’s Holiday Gift Guide). And so I was getting a little bummed out when I realized that my kids are slowly growing out of the Kiwi Crate. They’re aimed at ages 4-8. I’d say the upper age range could definitely go higher, but at age 12, Elena is pretty much done with them. And Eli, who has never been super interested in crafting, is growing out of the more artsy projects as well.

That’s why I was beyond stoked to see that news that Kiwi Crate is expanding to add 3 new subscriptions to go along with the classic Kiwi Crate:

Koala Crate >>

    • The Koala Crate (Ages 3-4): While some preschoolers could do the Kiwi Crate crafts with assistance, this will be perfect for little hands.

Tinker Crate >>

    • The Tinker Crate (Ages 9-14+): Hands-on projects to explore science, technology and math.

Doodle Crate >>

  • The Doodle Crate (Ages 9-16+): DIY art projects geared toward girls.

We’re all excited to try the Tinker Crate. The first one comes out next month, and I can’t wait to see how the kids do with it. I think they’re at the perfect age for this new Crate to be a big hit. I’ll be sure to post a detailed review as soon as we have our hands on it!

In the meantime, you can pre-order the new crates now at kiwicrate.com. No matter what the ages or interests of your children, I definitely recommend at least trying one box. I think, like us, you’ll be hooked!

Disclosure: I was not paid by Kiwi Crate or provided product in exchange for this post. Kiwi Crate is simply a product we’ve used and loved, and thought you might enjoy as well. I am, however, a Kiwi Crate affiliate. If you purchase a subscription through the links provided, I do receive some compensation.

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6 Fall Adventures to Get the Kids Outside {Take a Child Outside Week 2014}

Take a Child Outside Week

Tomorrow kicks off Take a Child Outside week! Looking at the forecast for the next week in our neck of the woods, it looks like Mother Nature is on board as well – it looks like the perfect fall weather! Take a Child Outside Week, created by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is […]

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Risky Reads: The Puppy Edition

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it already, but last month The Risky Family grew! We added a four-legged member to the club, a lab-mix puppy. He’s 5 months old, and full of energy! But he’s also full of licks and snuggles. We adopted him from a local agency that fosters animals, and he was […]

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Meet the Beyers {A Risky Kids Interview}

Leah Beyer Family Interview

One of the things I hear over and over again as interact with other free-range parents is, “I wish I knew more families like us.” A community, whether virtual or out your front door, can be so empowering. It makes you feel less alone, and when you feel like others have your back, you feel […]

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Keeping the Summer Spirit Alive Through the School Year

One of the hardest things about going back to school is watching the last glorious days of summer unfold while you’re stuck inside. And while I won’t deny that we were all ready to get back to a schedule, none of us were quite ready to give up on summer. It got me thinking – […]

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Explode a Bottle in the Freezer

50 Dangerous Things: Explode a Glass Bottle

Task: Fill and freeze a glass bottle, and see the natural power of ice in action. Requires: Sealable glass bottle Plastic container (to hold the bottle bits post-explosion) Possible Hazards: Cuts and scrapes Mess How It All Went Down: I can think of multiple times we accidentally exploded a bottle in the freezer as kids, […]

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Life Skills Every Kid Should Know: How to Bake From a Box

In March I announced that we’d be starting a new series on The Risky Kids: Life Skills Every Kid Should Know. The response was wonderful – it turns out you agree that there are many things kids need to know beyond what they’re taught in school. You agreed with our suggestions for the series, and […]

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The Unscheduled Summer: Putting the Break Back in Summer

Well hello there {dusts cobwebs off keyboard}! It’s been awhile! I had absolutely no intention of taking a break from blogging, but as I turned the calendar to August and the last days of summer vacation stared me in the face, I found the last place I wanted to be was in front of a […]

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A Summer Bus Route Just For Kids

If only she had access to public transportation she could use on her own in our hometown. Just on the heels of my post about unaccompanied minors, and how we might make the towns and cities we live here in the US more accessible for kids to get around without always relying on adults, I […]

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