Having a pet is usually a rite of childhood. Whether it is a dog, car or a gold fish, children enjoy the companionship offered by animals. But most parents try to avoid pets, tending to believe it is difficult to grow kids as well as grow pets just adding to extra work! Did you know, however, that not only can pets be a source of warm, fuzzy entertainment, but they can offer several developmental benefits to children as well? A child's physical, social and emotional development can all be encouraged by interaction with the pet. Physical Pets provide an impetus for running and practicing simple skills. Walking a dog or running with it and throwing a ball are great ways to exercise the dog as well as for children to get away from indoor activities and move around. Small skills can be encouraged by allowing children to scoop food and pour water into dishes, and by helping to groom them. Depending on the child's age, parental supervision is recommended for both the child's and the pet's safety. Social For children, pets can be wonderful social facilitators. Children are more prone to approach and interact with another child who is playing with a pet. In this way, a pet can be the bridge between a less socially outgoing child and other potential playmates. A pet itself can be a social object for children because of the nature of their relationship. Because animals accept us for who we are, pets give some practice in a social relationship. The kids learn that there is a world outside of himself and his own needs. Emotional Pets can facilitate various aspects of emotional development such as self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. As kids age and take on more of the care for the pet, it helps to build self-confidence. The responsibility a child has for her pet needs be age appropriate. At the age of three, a child can help to fill food bowls. By five, he can begin to take on some basic grooming tasks as well as to help clean the pet's living area. As children reach the mid-elementary school aged years, they can begin walking a dog independently, and as the teen years approach, the child will most likely be able to take on the bulk of the responsibility for a house pet. Keeping pet-oriented tasks age-appropriate is not only necessary for the safety of the pet, but for the child as well -- both physically and emotionally.