Learning through Pet Care

calendarJune 3 2020

Teaching your Special Needs Kids at home

Teaching our Special Needs kids at home can be tough and often requires an imaginative approach. Here we show you how to make everyday activities, such as pet care, into valuable learning opportunities. There are no special resources or preparation needed as we know how hard it is fitting everything into the day.

Even cleaning out a pet can be an easy lesson!

When your kids are at home, you want to help them learn. If you try to turn your home into a replica of the classroom, you are likely to drive yourself crazy.

Instead of creating a formal learning environment and getting frustrated because your child is getting distracted, use an everyday activity to teach. Learning through pet care allows you to teach PSHE, Maths and English, and they won’t even notice they are learning!

An image of a young tabby cat climbing into a fish tank. The tank is half full as it is being cleaned out. You can see a goldfish in the corner of it.
Pet care? I’m on it!!

Just do a little at a time

Image of a kitten sitting on a closed toilet lid, reaching over to play with the toilet roll and pulling it off the holder.
Just learn one thing at a time!

Don’t forget, when we are teaching our special needs kids at home, we just use one idea at a time. Trying to turn everything into a lesson all at once will just stress you out and your child will protest! Once you get started, it will become natural and you will start to see opportunities for learning in everything you do!

Learning through Pet Care

ActivitySubject areaLearning ideas

Grooming and Cleaning out
PSHEWhen you ask your child to groom (brush) the pet, help to clean out their cage or tank, or feed them, they are learning:
1. how to be responsible for an animal
2. to handle an animal
3. the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene.

Talk about why it is important to groom or clean out your pet.

Ask what you need to do to keep your animal clean. What do they need to do to keep themselves clean?

Is what they do different to you? For example:
a. a cat can wash itself and doesn’t often need a bath, how do you wash?
b. a dog needs to brush its teeth every day, just like you!
c. a hamster poos in its cage, so it needs to be cleaned out but it does have a an area it uses as a toilet? Where do you go to the toilet?

You can use these conversations as a prompt to encourage toilet use and cleanliness at home.
Feeding your petPHSETalk about what the animals eat. Can they eat the same food as you? What will happen if you give them the wrong food, too much food or if you forget to feed them?

Point out that it is as important to look after yourself as it is to look after your pets. You can also talk about your eating habits? What happens if you eat the wrong food, eat too much, forget to eat?

If your child is a fussy eater, this can also be a way of encouraging them to eat the right things.
Counting and number

Telling the time.
Ask your child to brush your pet a certain number of times e.g. brush 3 times down Fluffy’s back.

Check the clock when you start grooming your pet or cleaning them out and again when they finish. Ask your child to count the minutes and work out how long they have been doing the job.

Ask your child to brush the pet for a certain amount of time. You can use a clock or ask them to set a timer.

Show your child how to estimate number by guessing the number of the teeth on your pet’s comb, then ask them to check their answer by counting them. You can also estimate the number of bristles in a brush.
FeedingMathsWeigh/ measure out how much food your pet needs. You can ask your child to serve out a number of spoonfuls, or half a tin, or weight in grams.

Extension: Ask your child to calculate how much food you need to buy for two days or a week. E.g. If your pet has half a tin of food a day, you can ask how many tins of food you need to buy for them for two days or a week.
Grooming and cleaningLiteracyAsk your child to describe the combs or brushes you are using by colour, size and feel (rough, smooth, hard, soft).
How they think the pet is feeling while it is being groomed – use descriptive words.

Write/tell a story about a pet going to the pet groomers.

Write/tell a story about what happens when a pet escapes when you are cleaning its cage.
Feeding LiteracyHave a look at the food packets. Ask your child to identify certain words or read how much food you need to give them.

Use adjectives to describe the animal’s food.

We hope this post on learning through pet care gives you a few ideas. If you need any help you please post in our Education Forum here.

Please leave a comment below! Tell us how you got on or what ideas you have for teaching Special Needs kids at home!

About Us

An image of a tabby cat and a tortoiseshell cat lying side by side. The Tabby has its arm resting over the body of the tortoiseshell cat, the tortoiseshell cat is using the tabby as a pillow.

Emma Bara has taught about environmental topics and science for years, running whole school education projects, teacher training, science clubs for primary school kids and GCSE Science tutoring.

David Bara has years of experience as a primary school and SEN teacher and Senior Lecturer of Special Educational Needs.

They are the Co-Founders of and do not apologise for the cat bias shown here.

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