My childhood pet was a goldfish. I wanted a barn owl but mum bought me a goldfish. I couldn’t cuddle or pat Sunny but he was a good listener when I was sent to my room and needed to voice my frustrations. Although I daydreamed about telling John Travolta whose face was plastered on my walls, how unfair my life was, Sunny’s meditative laps of his fishbowl brought me calm.

A family pet, whether dog, cat, or chameleon, encourages a child’s social, physical, emotional and cognitive development.

Keeping the family pet alive and hygienic can be a child’s first step in taking responsibility and even if part of the routine falls to you, there is still a mutual understanding and need for being reliable. Pets make a good vehicle for learning a concept I’d wish more adults would also embrace.

Because of the special bond that often develops between pet and child, pets can sometimes fill the role of comforter. Since the relationship is non-judgemental, a hurting child might be more willing to trust a pet than a person, and with this trust comes companionship, an early practice for socialising.

As 25% of UK households have a dog it’s a great opportunity for children to get outdoors to play. Or maybe take the pet guinea pig for a walk in the stroller. Take vegetable scraps to the bunny in the garden. Spending time with animals away from electronic gadgets in the fresh air is healthy for both body and brain.

Research has also shown that pets make great reading buddies at home and at school. Some schools have reading programs, a fun experience for kids especially if they get nervous reading in front of other kids and adults.

“I think it takes away the children’s inhibitions when they’re reading so they’re not judged by their peer group or anybody”, says Mary Sulter who runs a Canine Classrooms Program in Australian Schools.

“It’s really beneficial and not only for reading but their overall development and self-confidence”, she adds.

So consider adopting a wonderful addition to your family, one that is right for your situation and one that will benefit the family, including mum and dad.