Reptiles are fascinating creatures -they come in countless shapes, colors, and sizes. By popular belief, there are up to 8000 known living species of reptiles. Experts categorize these cold-blooded animals into four major groups: turtles, crocodilians, snakes, and lizards.
All of them are unique and beautiful in an otherworldly way. They also make fantastic pets and are great for kids.
They’re convenient pets to have. Furthermore, taking them home is excellent for children because they can:
- Bring them joy.
- Keep them company.
- Boost their confidence.
- Teach them about responsibility and life.
- And foster their interest in nature.
However, it’s crucial to choose correctly for the child’s sake and the animal’s too! In this article, we shall help you figure out the right fit for you and your family.
What Makes a Reptile Kid-Friendly?
As cute as reptiles can be, a pet is a big commitment and requires a lot of responsibility. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid impulse buying or to make decisions based only on the animal’s looks.
Instead, take into account various factors that determine the suitability of the pet before making any decisions. We listed some of the most relevant factors below.
- Lifespan: Considering the animal’s life expectancy will help you determine if you and your child are ready for this commitment. Keep in mind that it could potentially be very long. For instance, turtles can live for over ten years, with others reaching as high as 50.
- Size: Baby reptiles typically look so small at infancy. However, these initial sizes can be terribly misleading. They may outgrow their enclosures quickly and reach a size that can make handling difficult for children.
- Care: It is crucial to assess the reptile’s specific needs and see if you and your child can meet them.
Help your little ones learn all about these fascinating species. Here’s a ranking of the best reptiles to bring home :
1. The Leopard Gecko
The leopard gecko is, according to many experts, the best reptile for children! This species is small throughout its lifespan. People greatly admire them for their beauty. They have a speckled, leopard-like skin and a characteristically fat tail, meant to help them survive in the hot deserts. They come in a wide variety of colors and are naturally docile and cute!
Leopard geckos are insectivorous, so you and your kid can have fun feeding them worms and roaches from your backyard. What a lovely way of sustaining nature! The leopard gecko’s life expectancy ranges between 10 and 20 years. They spend much of their daytime underground and often come out at dawn and dusk.
In comparison to most typical pets, these geckos are unique. They have vocal cords that give them the capability to squeak and bark. Your kids will be fascinated by this remarkable trait! Furthermore, if you have a child interested in paleontology, what better pet than a descendant of the dinosaurs?
Caring for Leopard Geckos
The fact that leopard geckos are low maintenance makes them particularly suitable for kids. Their adaptation to hot climates means that they can go a long time without food or water. So, even if your kid forgets to feed the gecko (which they might), they should be able to pull through the night without a problem. Nonetheless, we recommend parental supervision for the reptile’s well-being.
Since these geckos are small, they don’t need a big enclosure. A 15 to 20-gallon tank should suffice as a home. They do well with a heat source and a simple thermostat.
However, they do not require special lighting because they are nocturnal reptiles. They are also impressively clean creatures – they always do their business in one corner of the enclosure, making it easy to clean up after them.
Furthermore, they’re inexpensive and very accessible – you can purchase them from most pet stores. It’s crucial to educate your kids on the fragility of these beautiful animals. By this, we mean that they require delicate handling; otherwise, they may drop their tails. Although they can regrow it, it will not look the same as before.
2. The Corn Snake
When it comes to serpents, corn snakes are the most docile you can get and probably the easiest to care for. This quality makes them an excellent pick for kids and beginner herpers alike. They are slender in size and get their name from the corn-like print on their underbelly.
There are many color varieties to this snake – some are entirely black, while others are spotted, striped, orange, red, or pink. They typically reach about 5.5 feet long but remain very thin their whole lives. Their life expectancy ranges between 15 and 20 years.
Caring for Corn Snakes
Corn snakes feed on rodents every 5-7 days. Their meals must be pre-killed and frozen but should be thawed and brought to room temperature before feeding them. Corn snakes don’t skip meals and are not picky eaters, meaning you will never have to clean up after any leftover food.
However, if your child has an affinity for rodents, having a pet snake might not be such a good idea.
Corn snakes are great to handle because they are robust and are generally not likely to bite. However, on the off chance that they do, their bites do not cause severe damage. They’ve got a decent size proportion, i.e., big but not overwhelmingly so, meaning that you can conveniently house them in glass enclosures called vivariums.
However, corn snakes are the Houdinis of reptiles. It’s essential to invest in a well-sealed and escape-proof housing to prevent them from attempting to bolt. The enclosure should remain heated at a temperature of about 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Failure to do so will result in severe health deterioration, e.g., loss of appetite. Like the leopard gecko, they do not require any special lighting and are also inexpensive.
3. Bearded Dragons
These reptiles, which are lizards’ close relatives, are another excellent option for kids. There are eight species of bearded dragons, also referred to as “beardies.” Thanks to their calm and docile nature, they enjoy being held and petted gently. They are tame and friendly to the point where some people dress them up for Halloween! They are active in the daytime, meaning they’ll wake up as soon as the sun rises.
Native to the desert, bearded dragons are characterized by their prickly necks or beards that can fully extend, depending on their mood. They also have small heads, and, like the medieval fire-spitting beasts, they have armors of spiny scales. Bearded dragons’ life expectancy is about ten years, and their adult size is about 50 inches.
These pets communicate in a rather interesting way – with their beards! When threatened, a beardie puffs it out while opening up their mouth, making themselves appear bigger than they are. They are also known to change the color of their pricks and bob their heads. A quick nod may indicate dominance, while a slow one, paired with an arm wave, signify submission.
Caring for Bearded Dragons
Although they don’t require outdoor walking, an aspect that makes bearded dragons kid-friendly is that you can train them to do so! With a specifically-designed reptile harness, your kids can flaunt their little dragons around the block.
However, keep in mind that you will need to train them from a relatively young age. They are also quite hardy, making them less prone to injuries after play sessions with heavy-handed children.
Beardies require an adequately sized habitat for growth. They can easily reach two feet in length by the age of 1-2, with females being slightly smaller than males.
Bearded dragons have a very flexible diet – they mostly eat vegetables and occasionally a few insects, e.g., crickets or mealworms. When feeding bugs to a bearded dragon, make sure they’re not too big and be certain you have enough of them.
Bearded dragons thrive in enclosures that are up to 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to vary the heat range to allow them to enjoy both cooler and warmer temperatures. A basking light should suffice to provide warmth for your dragon. Beardies require a full-spectrum UV lamp for 12-14 hours per day as a replacement for sunlight. It’s best to keep a thermometer in the tank to ensure meeting these requirements.
Just like with other pets, diet and nutrition are highly critical. Ensure to consult your vet before trying out new foods, as this will promote your reptile’s good health and longevity. Another vital point to remember is that each animal is unique.
While some pets are picky eaters, others will devour everything you lay before them. That said, do your research and stick to your vet’s recommendations.
Times have changed. Today, anyone interested in getting a pet reptile has plenty of options. There are so many different types to choose from in the market. Many are incredibly fascinating in quirky and unique ways, making it challenging to decide! Equip yourself with knowledge of their specificities, needs, and characteristics. This way, you will be able to pick the perfect new member of your pet family.