Pet bunnies a great asset at Elwood
When Goodstart Elwood
decided to introduce animals into their learning curriculum, they were aware of the benefits to small children.
RSPCA research shows owning or being around animals can have a number of benefits for children including having higher self-esteem, a more positive outlook on life, and being more able to deal grief, stress and loss.
The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne agrees, with a spokesperson saying they are important because they provide enjoyment and help children develop responsibility transferable to adulthood. They can give children support, confidence, esteem and comfort.
And the benefits don’t stop there. A recent American study reveals furry pets, such as dogs, cats and rabbits, will have less risk of allergies. In the study, it was found infants with a dog living in their home were less likely to have eczema, had higher levels of some immune system chemicals.
Goodstart Elwood educational leader and sustainability officer Natasha Fullerton said she had worked with Melbourne farm, Animals on the Move, to adopt two rabbits, Lola and Rocky late last year.
The centre was recently recognised in Goodstart's annual awards program, where it won a major award in the sustainability category.
“We hosted the baby bunny program which ended with us adopting two bunnies into the centre, and two families adopting a bunny each. We continued to build this relationship with Animals on the Move by hosting a chicken hatching program and a petting zoo.”
She said encouraging the children to learn to be more responsible, nurturing and caring was behind the decision to adopt the rabbits.
“Animals can teach children so much and since we got the bunnies we’ve really noticed this.
“They learn how to be responsible, and how to look after animals, they learn how to nurture and care for animals,” she said. “And it also helps with drop off in the morning because when the children have the bunnies to go and visit in the morning, they settle more quickly.”
The rabbits are let out of their enclosure during the day “so the children have access to cuddles as much time as the bunnies will let them.”
Ms Fullerton said because not all families had pets at home, seeing animals in the early learning setting gave all children the chance to experience the fun, feel safe and comforted.
The centre also has pet fish in each of the learning rooms.