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Tip for Teachers- 10 Things to Consider When Selecting a Class Pet

This is re-post from the e-letter I get from NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).  It's also great for parents too!

A classroom pet can captivate preschoolers' interest, teach empathy and
responsibility, and encourage compassion and respect for living creatures. Pets
require a big commitment, however. Here are 10 things to think about when choosing a
classroom pet.

1. Yourself.
What animals do you like? The ideal pet is one that you are interested in,
comfortable with, and excited about sharing with the children. 

2. The children.
What types of animals are they interested in? Do any of the children have allergies
or weak immune systems that could be affected by the presence of certain pets? 

3. The pet.
Research and consider the typical personality and needs of the animal. Is it
happiest living alone or with others? Does it need a quiet environment? Does it
sleep during the day? Is it easily frightened? Will it require daily attention? 

4. Cost.
Pets can be expensive. Who will pay for the animal, its food, habitat, and other
necessary items, or costs such as veterinary care? 

5. Care.
It is important to agree on who will be responsible for the animal.
What can the children do to take care of it? Who will care for the pet on weekends
and holidays? What will you do if it gets sick? 

6. Handling.
The pet must be one that preschoolers can touch and hold. Animals that might bite,
scratch, or harm the children in any way are not appropriate. How will you teach
children to handle the pet safely and humanely? How will you supervise the children
when they are handling the pet? 

7. Health and safety.
Many animals (such as reptiles, amphibians, and "pocket pets" like guinea pigs,
gerbils, and hamsters) can carry salmonella. Children must use proper hand washing
after handling any pet. Are there any other health risks associated with the pet you
are considering? 

8. Rules and regulations.
Review your program's policies about classroom pets and check local health codes and
licensing regulations. 

9. Reproduction.
Some animals reproduce easily; your two or three classroom critters could turn into
many more. This could be a planned learning opportunity or something you want to
avoid. If you purchase a female pet, find out whether she is pregnant. House males
and females separately if you do not want them to have babies.

10. Death.
On occasion, a well-loved classroom pet dies, which can be upsetting for
preschoolers. A skilled teacher will have a plan in place to help children address
and cope with their feelings of loss. 

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