Caring for an animal teaches kids compassion and responsibility. However, it is important to always keep your kid’s age in mind when choosing pets since younger children are more likely to injure a small animal through well-meaning acts such as squeezing it too tightly. Since the last thing you need is to find a lizard scurrying through your kitchen, just make sure to supervise them during those first few days. As your kid gets excited about the new addition to your family, consider these five starter pets that are ideal for beginners.
1. Hermit Crab
Kids will love picking out a new hermit crab based upon its colorful shell, and you will love the easy set up. Hermit crabs often come with starter kits that include a small tank, gravel and food dishes. Since they are social creatures, it is usually best to get at least two. Then, keep the tank slightly humid, and your kids can even enjoy feeding them pieces of real food such as pineapple and vegetable scraps.
2. Beta Fish
These colorful fish are great starter pets for families who love fish but are new to aquariums. Since male fish tend to fight, it is best to start with one. You can then use a smaller, one-gallon tank or fish bowl to house your new fish. Let your kid pick out a few decorations for the tank, and they will look forward to taking care of their new pet while watching it swim.
Birds give kids a new animal friend that interacts with them through chirps and squeaks, and you may be surprised to discover them imitating your kid’s sounds. Parakeets are smaller than other types of birds, so you will just need to start with a basic cage, some food and toys. While your kid will need some help at first, they can also quickly learn how to practice basic safety measures as they clean the cage and feed their new favorite feathered friend. For example, you should never feed parakeets avocados, chocolate or fruit seeds. Talk to your vet about other precautions you should take when you schedule their pre-trip home exam.
There is no denying the adorableness of a sweet little bundle of fur. Whether you purchase a kitten or find an older cat in the shelter, start your new pet off right with a visit to the veterinarian to make sure that they are well. Then, set up a litter box, and enjoy watching your kid delight in their new cat’s playful antics. To really make this a lesson in responsibility, make sure to place the food down low enough for your kid to feed their cat according to a schedule that you post near their feeding bowl.
5. Leopard Gecko
These cute little reptiles are the perfect compromise when your kid is asking for a snake, and you are just not ready to deal with a creepy critter. Leopard geckos can live for 10 to 20 years, which means that your little tyke might just be taking it with them to college. To bring one home, you will need a tank that is at least a foot high since these guys love to climb. You can also get a pair, but make sure to get the same gender or you could be dealing with little gecko babies. Leopard geckos like to eat live food. Crickets, waxworms and mealworms are part of their diet, and your kid can learn how to dust the insects with calcium supplements before feeding them to their gecko.
Watching as your kid develops a special relationship with their new pet leads to many amazing moments as a parent. Remember to always make safety a priority and involve your kid in the daily care and feeding ritual so that they can take ownership of their new animal companion.