By Tamara L. Waters
Computer games have become a way of life for kids and adults alike. When it comes to pet-related games, do any of them actually teach skills or instill learning that will help a kid become a responsible pet owner? My own children have enjoyed computer games that involve caring for pets and while some are silly and useless entertainment, a few can actually introduce responsible pet care to children who have never owned a pet.
Pet Vet 3D: Animal Hospital
With this game, the player becomes a veterinarian who takes care of an assorted variety of animals – from horses and ponies, to cats, dogs, bunnies and even piglets. My daughter really enjoyed this game as she learned facts about the animals “she” was treating, and it piqued her interest to learn more about these animals and their care.
There are other similar computer games that allow the player to “become” a veterinarian and provide care for furry patients. There is Paws & Claws Pet Vet, Paws & Claws Pet Vet 2, Pet Vet 3D: Wild Animal Hospital, and Happy Tails: Animal Shelter which allows you to care for animals and find them a forever home.
This has been a favorite game for my kids. While the pet care obviously isn’t realistic, I found that this game helped my kids learn about caring for pets in a fun and easy way. With this game, you choose a pet (a dog or a cat in your choice of breed and color), name it and then set out to play with and care for your pet. The animals in Petz 5 want affection (just like a real pet), need to be fed, played with, and paid attention to. If you don’t feed your pet, he or she might run away.
What I found with this game was that while it was mostly for fun and entertainment, it introduced my kids to the concept that pets aren’t toys that you just put away or care for when you feel like it. After the first time or two my kids forgot to care for their virtual pets and they ran away, they were more vigilant about making sure they took care of and fed their pets.
The Facebook game Petville is a game that my nine-year-old daughter enjoyed but it was simply for entertainment purposes. I played it with her several times and found that it wasn’t a game that really provided more than that. The care for the pet isn’t very realistic and even though a pet will run away if you forget to feed it, you can easily pay to get it back from the pound.
In real life, this isn’t how it works. Thankfully, my children have real pets to care for, and they understand that feeding, socializing and regular care is just part of daily life when you have a pet.
How can these computer games help kids learn about responsible pet ownership? I do believe they provide value by introducing kids to the concept of pet care, but all in all, they are just games. Nothing is the same as the actual hands-on care of pets. If you would like an opportunity to teach your children hands-on pet care with real pets, check with your local animal shelter. Many shelters appreciate and need volunteers who are willing to come in and play with the animals, walk them, brush them and provide actual care. This is a better way to help your kids learn about caring for real pets prior to bringing a pet into your home.
Read more by Tamara L. Waters
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