Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about caring for pets and animals.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Caring for Pets. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Many children ask their parents and guardians for a pet, but not every child is ready for the responsibility. Explain to your children that pets are fun, but take serious work. Pets rely on people to take care of them, so owning a pet means caring for another life. We recommend watching the Needs and Wants movie together as a review.

Wild animals are different from pets because they can take care of themselves and live independently of people. Pets, on the other hand, need people to feed and care for them. Like people, pets need water and food. Pets should always have plenty of fresh water available to them, in bottles, bowls, or troughs. Some pets need to be walked several times per day. Some species of snakes only need to eat once a week. It is important for your child to understand that different pets have different needs and require different levels of commitment. It is important that your family researches how to properly care for your pet together. For example, chocolate may be a delicious snack for people, but for dogs it can be deadly.

Pets also need proper shelter to survive. Reptiles, amphibians, insects, and fish need properly equipped tanks to survive. This may mean incorporating heating, cooling, or humidifying equipment to regulate temperature and moisture. Pets that live outside should have a safe, warm structure where they can sleep and stay during bad weather.

Training is also an important part of owning a pet. Training not only allows pets to cohabitate with their owners easily, but it also helps them stay safe. For example, training a cat to avoid jumping on counters will prevent them from being accidentally burned on a stove or breaking an item that could hurt them. Training a dog to sit, stay, and come will prevent it from running into busy streets. Training a bird not to bite will ensure it receives more affection and interaction with its owners.

Most children dislike cleaning up after pets, but explain that it is an important job. A clean pet is a healthy pet. Grooming and picking up after a pet are important. Taking the pet to the veterinarian, or a doctor that treats pets, is also an important part of having a pet. Vaccinations, or injections that prevent the animal from getting diseases, may be necessary depending on the animal. Veterinarians can also spay or neuter a pet and prevent unwanted offspring. Animal shelters are overflowing with stray animals and fixing a pet is part of a greater social responsibility.

Remind children that though pets are cute, not all are comfortable around strangers or safe. Children should always ask the owner before petting or playing with a pet. They should allow cats and dogs to sniff their hands and get familiar with their scents before petting. Furthermore, children should always wash their hands after they handle a pet. Many animals carry germs that can make people sick and some animals may have ticks that carry Lyme disease, which can spread to humans. We recommend watching the Washing Hands movie to review proper hand-washing techniques.

Finally, review that pets are fun but they also take work. Finding the right pet is crucial. Pets that need little supervision, such as fish and spiders, may be more appropriate for children and families who do not have a lot of free time. Dogs may be right for active children and families, but not all dogs are appropriate for children – families need to be responsible in choosing a dog that will be safe around children. Small rodents may be a good fit for families in small homes or apartments. Encourage your children to figure out their needs and think about what pets need before selecting a pet. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized in the United States every year, so once a pet is brought into the family, it is important to act responsibly.