Seeking A Reptile For Your Child's Next Pet? What Are Your Best Options?

Posted on: 19 July 2016


If your child has recently expressed interest in adding a reptile to your family's pet collection, you may be nervous about the different health and habitat needs of a cold-blooded creature. Fortunately, there are several hardy reptiles whose needs are simple enough for a child to handle while still providing interaction and companionship. Read on to learn more about the most kid-friendly reptiles whose habitats and eating habits won't break your household budget.

Bearded dragon

These personable lizards are slow-growing, which means you can get by with a relatively small habitat for years before you need to upgrade from a 20-gallon tank. Over time, your child's dragon will grow to the size permitted by its enclosure, eventually ending up in a 40- to 75-gallon tank. You'll need to include a heat lamp or heated rock in your dragon's cage so that it can regulate its body temperature, along with a small bowl of water. 

These dragons primarily subsist on small insects like crickets and mealworms, and your child may enjoy the ritual of putting crickets in the dragon's cage and watching them be hunted down. Bearded dragons can also be ideal companions for kids, as they're playful and friendly, and unlikely to bite or flee as long as they're regularly handled with kindness. 

Crested gecko

Another kid-friendly option that requires significantly less space than a bearded dragon is a crested gecko. Even adult geckos can thrive in a tank that's only 20 gallons, and younger geckos can be happy with a 10-gallon tank with a few climbing branches and a cave in which to hide. Like bearded dragons, these geckos enjoy crickets more than just about any other food source. However, if you don't like the idea of stopping by the pet store every few days or dealing with chirping crickets in your home constantly, you can feed your gecko a special reptile paste that has all the requisite vitamins and minerals. Crested geckos are calm, placid animals and must be handled gently, so they're usually the best option for an older child who has shown care with other animals.

Corn snake

Corn snakes can be a great introduction to the world of snakes, as they grow to be large enough to be handled without fear of harming them but aren't big enough to cause your child any harm. Although corn snakes are common to much of the eastern U.S., the varieties sold in pet stores are often albino, an attractive orange and white.

These snakes are very low-maintenance, requiring a tank and heat lamp but needing to eat only every 7 to 10 days. You'll want to start your snake on small mice, gradually moving up to larger mice and rats -- but if you or your child can't stomach the thought of sacrificing a live rodent a few times every month, you can easily purchase frozen ones from your local pet store. 

Keep this advice in mind when looking at reptiles for sale.