Friday, October 18, 2013

Virtual Pet Part 2 - The Easiest and Cleanest Pet!

Vicky Lamb reached out to us not too long ago about ideas for a virtual pet, so we had a discussion on the Facebook page about it.

Vicky wrote: I am a special needs teacher in South Africa, and would like to introduce a virtual pet to the class to help with social skills and empathy. Does anyone have any experience with this or any recommendations for a free virtual pet?

There was only one suggestion shared, which can be seen on Part 1, but Vicky has since found something to use, and she has written about it for you.  Please read on to see how Vicky Lamb is incorporating a virtual pet in her classroom. ~Heather S.


Social skills and children with special needs do not always go hand in hand with each other, and so I began thinking about ways to improve these difficult skills. It’s not an easy task coming up with ideas about how to get children to start developing the elusive theory of mind.

There is one method however, which has been proven to help some children develop empathy and attachment. This is pet therapy. While there are many success stories about this, it is sometimes difficult to introduce a pet into a classroom. We can never fully predict our learners’ reactions to pets, and we may unintentionally be putting this animal in harm’s way. And so I came to the idea of using a virtual pet. I did some research on this, and found very little, but one name kept coming up: Webkinz ( It is a free online virtual world (you can subscribe if you would like more features) which also has a free iPad app, and so began our adventure into the world of virtual pets. (I also have a Mimio interactive whiteboard in my class, so everyone can see what we are doing.)

I introduced the class to the idea and let them choose between two animals, a dog or a cat. Giving them too many choices did not work as they all wanted something completely different. We took a vote, and they decided on the cat. The program, then, lets you go on to decide the name. I thought this was going to be quite tricky, as it is an abstract concept; however, they very quickly decided they liked the name Bella. Bella was born, and we were immediately transported into Bella’s world. The kids decided that the first thing we needed to do was dress Bella. Of course everything that we saw had to be put on.  After this, it was feeding time, and again Bella was given everything we had in storage. We are only on day three, and while it is taking some time for some of the kids to adjust to it and get into it, most of them are really enjoying it.

There are various games, which are educational, that you can play. You, also, start off with a certain amount of money. We used some of ours to decorate our house and give our new pet some furniture.

You get new coins every day for logging in, and this is great to use for addition and subtraction concepts. On the first page, when you log in, you are given a heart with the days of the week underneath it, I use this to reinforce the days of the week, because when you click on the correct day, you are given new coins.

We start off our mornings by checking up on Bella and making sure she is doing well, and end off our day by saying good bye to her and putting her to bed.

So far we have had a lot of fun with this; however, I do recommend playing with the program quite a bit before introducing it into a classroom setup. I will be giving the parents access to our pet so they can use it at home with their child. Along with this, I will be sending home a Tamagotchi  (can be bought from Amazon), as not all of our children have access to computers, internet, or an iPad. Every day a certain child will be responsible for the Tamagotchi and needs to look after it and return it to school the next day!

 If you would like to use the iPad app, it is very basic and there is a lot that you cannot use on it yet. Although, if you have a class where they all have iPads, this may be quite nice as they cannot do anything too drastic on the iPad!


Thank you Vicky for this wonderful guest post!  Webkinz sound like a great way to have a virtual pet.  Who is planning to have a virtual pet in their home or classroom now?  Does anyone already have one? ~Heather S.

If you would like to download, Webkinz Friends (Free with in-app purchases, iPad Only), please support Smart Apps for Special Needs by clicking on our link:


Heather S. just copied a wonderful blog post in and formatted it.  Vicky Lamb did the writing.  Heather just wishes she still had her own classroom to share a virtual pet with

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