Pets? Loose parts? Sure. In his Theory Of Loose Parts article, Simon Nicholson specifically mentions living things as loose parts. Loose parts are more than pine cones and pretty shells–they are any variables in the environment that can be engaged. And boy or boy, can little kittens and big dogs be engaging. Research also indicates that being around a dog increases your brain activity.

More Than Cats And Dogs

But, of course, there are more living things that can become classroom companions. Back in my center director days, we had fish, lizards, rabbits, frogs, rats, worms, and tarantulas as live-in pets. And other creatures came for short-term visits–including a pair of very active and affectionate piglets. I’ve visited many programs–most in Canada and Australia–that playground chickens, and one that had a pet goat.

Pets Promote Physical Activity

Classroom critters can encourage kids to get up and move–and reap the benefits of all that running, romping, and roaming.

Relationships And Caregiving

Engaging with critters in the classroom is a chance for kids to build relationships and hone caregiving skills. We once had a pet rat named Reada in an after school program I directed. She started out with another name, but we had to change it when the kids discovered she loved to sit on their shoulders while they read to her. She’d curl up on a kid’s shoulder, her narrow tail along their neck as they read aloud to her.

This started with kids who loved reading, but as time went on, kids who were less inclined to sit down with a book started reading to Reada. Of course, they did. Who wouldn’t want to snuggle with a rat while reading If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?

Thoughts about classroom pets as loose parts? Share them in the comments.

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Jeff Johnson is an early learning trainer, podcaster, and author and the founder of Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ.

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