Home | Pet Care | Small Pets for Your Children – Choosing His or Her First Pet- Part 3

Small Pets for Your Children – Choosing His or Her First Pet- Part 3

Leopard GeckoI want to conclude this look at popular first pets for kids with two common reptiles chosen for children and a word on setting up a child’s first aquarium. Though they may not be fuzzy and cuddly like other animals, these pets can be very fun and interesting for children and they can be terrific options for kids with allergies or those that like to look more than to touch.

Leopard Geckos

Leaving off at furry animals as a pet option, I believe certain species of reptiles have the potential to make great pets for children. The leopard gecko is a wonderful first time reptile for a child who may not want to play with their animal, but simply watch it. These geckos do not require anything larger than a ten gallon tank with proper heating and lighting, and they eat crickets a few times a week which is entertaining to watch. Leopard geckos have sensitive tails that break off if pulled, but will in time grow back. It is not a good idea to let small children (who frequently put their hands in their mouth) to handle them, but everyone should wash their hands after handling any reptile. Geckos rarely bite and do not have strong odors. Their bedding can be sifted like a cat’s litter pan once a week and changed completely once a month. This lazy gecko may not be the most entertaining pet, so if you are looking for something that is going to keep your child busy for hours, a leopard gecko may not be the best option. They come in many beautiful colors and can be good starter pets for children interested in reptiles.

Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragon in terrariumDespite their tough appearance, these medium sized Australian lizards are tame and comical, great for children interested in reptiles who would like to handle their pets. Beardies need large tanks ranging from a 40 to 55 gallon or bigger and high heat, but once their tank is set up they need little more than insects and veggies a couple times a week. Your lizard’s tank cannot be allowed to reach high humidity levels as this can cause skin problems. Beardies are easy going most of the time, but will flare the “beard” under their neck and open their mouth if spooked. They do have teeth so if your dragon does this, it is a good idea to leave it alone. If you watch your children and make sure they are handling the lizard properly and they can be very good pets.


Fish are fun to watch for children of all ages! Depending on the type of fish you choose to keep for your children, they can be low maintenance or may require your attention quite often. They may need direction and assistance to clean the filter or do water changes. Smaller children will need more help, obviously, and should also be supervised when it comes to feeding the fish. Kids can watch you take care of the tank to learn and take over when they are old enough. A small fish tank may be a Bettabetter choice for first time fish owners, but graduating to larger tanks as your children (and fish!) grow can be a fun long term experience. You may want to start with a betta or a small set-up for tropical fish, and there are many easy to assemble and maintain aquarium kits that make it easy for both of you. Though many of us have our first experience with a carnival fish, goldfish are not easy care “starters” (they require larger tanks, stronger filtration and regular cleaning). Please remember that only a betta can be in a bowl, since bowls have little space, restrict oxygen, and cannot be filtered. It is best to do some research and see if aquarium keeping is a hobby you and your family might be suited for. Ask our Fish Room experts for tips on starting a tank, and for direction in choosing, mixing and keeping various fish before purchasing a tank.

So that concludes my rundown of some popular first time pets. Be sure to pick up care sheets from our staff if one of these critters has sparked your interest, and remember a pet should never be purchased on a whim! Pets of all kinds are living creatures that require care and attention for their lifetime, whether a year or 25 years. Animals can get sick and may need a veterinarian’s care at some point. Most animals will scratch or bite if they feel threatened or are handled roughly, even if the child’s intentions are good. Animals may not always be in the mood to play. Some of them can be expensive to keep. Bringing a pet into your home should be a family decision, and no matter how old a child is or how much he or she assures you they will take good care of it, it will always be your responsibility to make sure the animal is getting everything it needs to stay healthy and happy. Young children should always be supervised when handling ANY animal and EVERYONE should wash their hands after touching animals. Keep all of this in mind and you should be very happy with whatever pet you choose for your family. Happy pet shopping!

Leopard Gecko image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Iterat
Bearded Dragon in Terrarium image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Andre Karwath


  1. avatar

    I had a beardie for my first pet, that brings back memories! Parents should definitely prepare their kids for the long-haul though. I refused to bring my lizard to college and ended up donating it to an outreach program at a local reptile museum.

  2. avatar

    That’s another thing to consider when getting a pet for your kids. If the animal has a long lifespan and will still be around when its time for college, does your family have a plan for the pet? If mom or dad doesn’t want to take over the pet, perhaps a friend, rescue, or pet store will. Keep your pet’s interests at heart when making the choice to give it up. Make sure it is going to a good home!

About jeppley

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Jess has been an employee at That Fish Place/That Pet Place since 2005, stationed in both the Reptile and Small Animal rooms. She specializes in small animal care, and focuses particularly on rats, giving her the nickname of “The Rat Girl” by her customers and fellow employees. She has an Associate degree in Liberal Arts from Penn State York and is currently attending English courses online at University of Maryland University College. Her passion has always been animals and she has owned just about every variety of them, including cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, and even millipedes! She also loves writing and is working on publishing a series of young adult fantasy novels.
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