Balancing Benefits and Risks of Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) in Child Care Centres

Abstract

While the importance of secure relationships between children and caregivers has been well established in the literature as an essential feature of healthy child development, the influence of animal-human relationships on healthy development and attachment is also beginning to gain attention. A burgeoning literature supports the developmental and sustainability benefits of such relationships to children. One hundred seventeen directors of childcare centres in Manitoba, Canada (16.5%) caring for 24% of children in licensed care responded to a survey about animals in childcare facilities. Findings showed that only 51% of facilities currently had animals, with fish and caged rodents being the most common. Although centre directors agreed that the benefits of centre-based animals included children learning responsibility as well as increased calmness and happiness in children, the drawbacks in terms of children’s allergies, the costs, and the inconvenience outweighed these benefits in almost half the centres. Given the benefits of animals in young children’s lives, a list of variables for consideration is provided to aid directors in decision-making about animals in childcare centres.

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Acknowledgements

I gratefully acknowledge the assistance and co-operation of Manitoba Early Learning and Childcare, the childcare Directors who participated, Manitoba Health, Seniors, and Active Living, and Elin Ibrahim of Red River College. I appreciate your time and expertise in informing this work and in supporting the quality care and healthy development of Manitoba children.

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Correspondence to Laura Sokal.

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Sokal, L. Balancing Benefits and Risks of Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) in Child Care Centres. Early Childhood Educ J 48, 273–283 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-019-00982-0

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Keywords

  • Pets
  • Childcare centres
  • Canada
  • Animal-assisted activities