This post is written by guest author, Britt Kascjak, from Shed Happens.
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There is something unique and special about the bond that is shared between a child and their family dog. However, the healthy habits required for safe playtime don’t always come naturally. Below, you will find a list of 8 fun at-home games and activities for dogs and kids, designed to strengthen their connection while teaching your child to interact with their dog safely.
Did you know that April 26th is National Kids and Pets Day? This is a special day set aside to recognize and celebrate the adorable bond between children and their pets.
If you were lucky enough to grow up with a family dog, then you know just how magical the human-animal bond can be.
There are also many benefits associated with growing up with dogs, including valuable lessons in responsibility, higher emotional intelligence, and even improved immune systems!
However, living in a home with both dogs and children can be challenging at times, especially if you are attempting to tackle your housework to-do list, fit in a much-needed workout, or even work from your home office.
Rather than trying to entertain everyone yourself, why not allow your dogs and kids to entertain one another?
The following list of games and activities for dogs and kids includes a mix of games for the whole family, opportunities to teach your child about proper dog care and independent activities to keep your dogs and kids busy (in a fun and safe way).
At the same time, they encourage your child to connect with the family dog while demonstrating safe ways that they can interact. Let’s get started…
Check Out These Fun At-Home Games and Activities for Dogs and Kids Today!
#1 – Hide and Seek
One of the oldest and best-known games, hide and seek isn’t just for human children! In fact, many dogs LOVE playing this game with their ‘pack’, including children.
Start by having your child run and hide either indoors or in the backyard where the dog is unable to see them.
When they are ready, release the dog and have your child call out the dog’s name. When they succeed, your child can praise your dog with excitement, attention, and treats.
Repeat this process as often as you like, trying different hiding places.
For younger children, have an older sibling or parent hide with them to help find a hiding spot, stay quiet during the search, and praise your dog when they are found.
#2 – Doggy Painting
Don’t worry, this isn’t suggesting that you allow your kids to paint the dog (although we’ve all seen that hilarious picture making its way around the internet of the dog and Sharpie markers).
However, if you have a Picasso in the making at home, this is a fun way to encourage their creativity.
The best part? This is a mess-free crafting option!
All you need for this activity is a small blank canvas, a selection of different acrylic paint colors and a Ziploc bag large enough that it can be sealed with the canvas inside.
Cover the canvas in dots or lines of paint, squirting the paint straight from the container. You can do this all in one color or mix it up with as many colors as you desire! When you’re done, carefully slide the canvas into the Ziploc bag and seal it.
Now for the fun part! Place the Ziploc-covered canvas on the floor and allow your child to encourage your dog to ‘play’. Each time your dog’s paw or nose touches the bag, it will move the paint around creating a design.
If your dog needs a little incentive, consider placing a treat or some peanut butter on the bag.
When all is said and done, carefully remove the canvas from the bag. Throw away the mess with the Ziploc, let it dry, and you’re left with some custom artwork.
#3 – Bubbles
Many of us have happy memories of chasing bubbles outdoors, trying to catch them in our hands. However, did you know that there are dog-friendly bubble products available?
Products like Doggy IncrediBUBBLES are non-toxic, making them safe for both your child and your dog. They also come in fun dog-friendly flavours like peanut butter.
Your child can blow bubbles for the dog to catch or use an automatic bubble blower to get them both involved in the chase.
#4 – Soccer or Frisbee
With the warmer weather finally making an appearance, many families are looking for fun opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine.
Here’s an outdoor activity that will not only entertain both your child and your pup but also keep them active. Grab a frisbee or soccer ball, challenge everyone to a game!
You can set up ‘goal posts’ allowing your dog to play the role of the goaltender, encourage a game of ‘keep away’ where the whole goal is for your child to kick the ball or throw the frisbee around the yard without the dog stealing it or, if you have more than one child, they can play ‘monkey in the middle’ with your dog happily in the middle going after the prize.
Make sure to choose a pet-friendly toy for your game, as there is a chance that they may bite down on it or get a little ‘rough’ if they come out victorious.
If you have an older child, this can also turn into a fun training session. Challenge your child to teach your dog to kick or nose the soccer ball or catch the frisbee, providing them with tips and tricks along the way.
Consider encouraging your child to research the training process for these tricks online, watching YouTube videos and reading different tips and tricks. This is a great way to help your child develop the skills to find resources and put them into use.
#5 – Scavenger Hunt or ‘Find the Toy’
Gather up your dog’s favorite toys and treats and hide them strategically around the house or the backyard. Hide some items lower where only your dog and find them, and others up higher to encourage your child to get involved.
If your child needs a little encouragement to join in the fun, include some items for them to find too.
The idea is that your child and your dog will team up together to go on a scavenger hunt, searching out everything that you have now hidden.
For older children, allow them to set up the scavenger hunt for your dog. They can hide multiple items or a single item at a time, trying different hiding places each time that it is found.
This is a great option if you’re attempting to get something done and need to keep everyone entertained without you for any length of time.
#6 – Spa Day
Are you looking for a fun, ‘all day’ activity for your dog and your child? Why not plan a fun ‘puppy and me’ spa day at home?
This is a fun opportunity to not only spend time together bonding, but also to take care of your dog’s grooming needs in a fun and entertaining way.
Consider getting your child involved with everything from bath time to a mani/pedi or ‘pawdicure’.
If the weather is nice, set up a kiddie pool outdoors and have your child sport their favorite bathing suit. You never knew that puppy bath time could be so much fun!
For your dog’s pawdicure, check out the dog-friendly nail polish options currently on the market. You can have your child paint your dog’s nails after a quick trim, or even pick out matching colors and spoil both your dog and your child to a little pampering.
Not only is a spa day a fun time for all involved, but this is also a great opportunity to teach your child about the basics of caring for a pet.
This can be turned into an educational activity by discussing why each step of grooming is important and, for older children, how to properly carry out tasks like nail clipping.
#7 – Basic Skill Training
A great option, if you’re looking for an activity that you can do with your dog and your child, is to get everyone involved in your dog’s basic training.
While a young child may not be up to teaching advanced agility or scent work, they can help to teach your dog some of the basics, including ‘sit’, ‘down’ or ‘stay’.
Not only will this work to improve your dog’s overall behavior, but it will also provide an opportunity for your child to learn about the responsibilities involved in caring for a pet.
It’s also a great bonding experience, creating a special connection between your dog and your child.
#8 – Create an Obstacle Course
As previously mentioned, advanced agility training is likely too complicated as a first-time activity for your child. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a fun obstacle course!
Take a look at the objects that you have around the home that can be transformed into obstacles such as hula hoops to jump through plywood ramps, or tunnels made from long cardboard boxes.
Try not to make anything too complicated, especially if this is a first for your dog, but have fun with it.
You may even want to decorate obstacles up, decorating boxes, creating posters, or even making paper ‘flames’ to go around the hula hoop.
Once the whole obstacle course is assembled, your child can lead the dog through each of the obstacles.
There is a good chance that your dog will need a little motivation to complete some of the challenges that you have created. Arm your child with plenty of healthy training treats, that will often do the trick!
If you want to extend the fun, record the course, and watch it together, talking about all the incredible things that your child accomplished.
Above all else, just focus on having fun! The special bond that is shared between a dog and its owner is one that should be celebrated.
Do you have plans to celebrate National Kids and Pets Day? We’d love to hear about your plans in the comments below!
About the Author: Britt is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.