Enhancing our children's personal perspective and improving their mental health is a difficult task. We're making the most of our PET SHEEP and family farm to help bring out the best in our children. Here's how farm animals make happier kids.
Children should care for pet sheep
We thought being parents would be pretty straight forward. Get married, have kids, feed, clothe, bathe them…all good. But that little muscle between their ears seems to be far more complex and important than we thought. The standard “right from wrong” and “what is and isn't allowed” lessons we try to teach them is really just scratching the surface of what goes into developing a young mind.
Goats and pet sheep help with learning
Sharing is caring, they always say. But what about caring about something you can't talk to or readily communicate with? Having four siblings makes teaching our kids how to share not only essential, but also a bit of a daunting task. A big part of being good at sharing is learning to recognize other people's feelings. Doing that with a brother or sister is easy, but what about considering non family members, children without siblings, or children that don't communicate as well? Chelsea and I use pet sheep to force our boys to consider the needs of others who aren't like themselves.
Developing empathy with farm animals
Considering the needs of others is a lesson that is a little bit difficult to pass on to young minds. Pet sheep, however, along with our goats and chickens, help us teach the boys perspective. Every year, our pet sheep grow a thick wool coat. Here in Southern California, it gets warm. And with the warmth, the sheep get visibly less comfortable. This helps us teach our boys to consider the needs of our animals. They begin to understand the importance of keeping the water full as well as providing shady places for them to wait out the mid day heat.
Pet sheep help kids learn teamwork
Another aspect of sheep that is both frustrating and rewarding is their ‘herd mentality'. They love to stay together as a group but are not super good at following directions. That's where using all of our boys together really helps teach teamwork. We free range our goats and pet sheep during the winter, spring, and early summer when the grass and weeds in our field are growing rapidly. However, getting them to move from field to field is another story.
This is my opportunity to teach the boys to be little shepherds, of sorts. They learn to work as a team, spreading out and walking in coordination with each other to guide the sheep though the right gates. With a little practice and guidance, it now takes no time at all.
Learning about seasons and growth
With all this movement, the boys start to learn more and more about the “why” of what we are doing. In late summer, fall, and winter, the boys are used to the sheep eating alfalfa and other types of hay from bales. They go down to the pen and toss in a flake or two of alfalfa for the morning and night. But when it's free range season, the boys watch as the grass grows and the sheep are sent in to eat it down. With the rotation, the sheep get new grass the the used field grows back and the cycle repeats. Plus its a great way to keep the grass mowed down.
Exercise and getting outdoors
One of the best benefits of having pet sheep for your kids and home is it exposure your children get to the outdoors. When free ranging, having the simple chores of keeping the sheep's water full or feeding them gives them a chance to get outside and enjoy the space they live in. Sunshine is one of the bests sources of vitamin D kids can get and studies have shown that moderately increased melanin levels due to sun lead to happiness. It's also a great way to help kids burn off energy and get a great nights sleep. Other than just counting the sheep.
If you have a back yard, and are interested in a new or different way to explore learning with your children, maybe a pet sheep is a plausible choice for you. Their care is simple, the food is relatively inexpensive, and they're very nice animals which is good for small children. I mean, come on, they're fluffy! Maybe next, we'll talk about our backyard chickens.
Would you ever consider getting pet sheep?