To tell you what are the best pets for kids, I must first tell you about my own childhood. I grew up on a 400 acre farm with lots of animals around me as a child. I grew up with fish, birds, dogs, tortoises, turtles, cows, horses, ducks and we as a family did a lot of rehabilitation work too, taking care of sick and abandoned animals. My childhood with animals defined me and taught me so much about responsibility, empathy, and being observant.
The lessons learned from taking care of pet animals have stood me in good stead throughout my life. That is why, when I became a mother, I had already lived in the city for almost 16 years, but I was determined to give a slice of my childhood to my children. We raised several pets which anyone can raise in their city home. Many of my friends and my children’s friends kept asking me and my kids about keeping pets.
In this series of articles I want to share my experience of keeping pets and how other parents can select the best pets for their kids.
In this article: Table of contents
1. How to choose a pet
2. Benefits of keeping pets
3. Best pets for kids
4. Fish as pets for kids
5. Turtles as pets for kids
6. Budgies as pets for kids
7. Guinea Pigs as pets for kids
8. Rabbits as pets for kids
How to choose a pet
If you are thinking of how to choose a pet for your child I would recommend that you consider the following factors before making a decision.
- Your child’s personality: This is an important one because you should consider the pet’s needs and your child’s ability to respect those needs. Is your child patient? Over-sensitive? Does he have any phobias? For example if your child is afraid of flying creatures then birds are not a good idea. Is your child calm and gentle to handle a delicate creature?
- What is the lifespan?: Some pets can live for really long like a tortoise and then you have pets like fish that don’t always have the longest life spans. If it is a pet with a longer life span who will take care of it when your child leaves for higher education. In some cases, children can be super sensitive and be very attached to their pets so getting something that has a short lifespan could upset your child. But these are decisions you need to make for your child. Personally, we think the death of a pet is a learning experience. Teaching children about the circle of life. But the choice is yours.
- Care requirements and needs: Do your research and see if you can talk to people who have experience having the pet you are planning to get. Understand what it takes to look after your pet. Discuss with each member in the family and the interest level to share pet duties.
- Space and Time: It is important how much space your pet requires to feel comfortable and grow and be in a place to provide it. If it is a bird, where are you going to keep it? Where will the puppy sleep? It is just as important to evaluate how much time your child or the rest of the family are willing to spend with the chosen pet.
- The Finances: Another important factor is to understand how much your chosen pet will cost you. Not just buying the pet itself, but also feeding it, health costs, visits to the vet perhaps, vaccinations etc.
Benefits of keeping pets
There is a long list of benefits of keeping pets for children and for families. Here are a few benefits that I have experienced and read about.
- Improves health: Studies have shown that pets in a household can decrease the allergic conditions in children later in life. The presence of dogs and cats protects against allergy development. Especially for infants and young children, the presence of an inside pet has been found as a contributor to a stronger immune system. Infants exposed to dogs or cats were found to be healthier and experience fewer respiratory complications and ear infections. Having a pet also promotes physical activity. Kids just caring for their pet, taking the pet for a walk or even just playing with their pet increases the amount of physical activity a child will have.
Fun Fact: Did you know people who have pets make fewer visits to the doctor?
- Builds Self esteem and Confidence: This is perhaps the most important benefit of keeping pets. Allowing your child to participate in the tasks required to take care of the pet shows that you are trusting him/her with responsibility. Looking after a pet is an everyday commitment that teaches children the importance of dependability and resilience. Being able to care for their pet will help develop a sense of accomplishment and independence. The relationship they develop with their pet helps them see themselves in a positive way and can even give them a sense of purpose and also helps develop their social and emotional skills as well.
For boys who perceive babysitting, keeping house as girly things, caring for a pet helps them to practice the nurturing skills required in life
Owning a pet helps build social skills in children and encourages interactions. You will perhaps find your child now talking to others about their pets, sharing their experiences all of which help develop self-esteem and self-confidence when interacting with others.
- Teach Empathy and Compassion: Research shows that children who grow up with animals are more empathetic and compassionate, learning to put their needs above their own.
- Teach Life lessons: Children who have grown up with pets around them are able to see the lessons about life like illness, reproduction, birth and death. While it is not easy, these lessons give the opportunity to have a dialogue with the parent and for the parent to help process these difficult emotions and help prepare the child for the world outside
- Helps family bonding time: Usually when pets come into a home they take on the centre of attention and if your child is interested in the pet you have chosen, be sure that there will be conversations around what the pet did, how it behaved, the new trick it learnt etc. This is such a wonderful experience and brings the family together. If it’s a dog you’ll probably find yourself walking the dog with your kids, or petting the rabbit while your child gushes over the newfound personality. Pets help families slow down their busy lives and enjoy spending time together and with their pets.
- Reduces Stress, Depression, Loneliness and Anxiety: Cuddling a pet or playing with a pet provides companionship to many children who are dealing with the above mentioned. Research has shown that children who have pets are able to deal with these issues much better.
In our family we discovered that the more a child can interact with the pet the better and stronger is the bond. The other factor that influences the attachment is the age of the child.
Now moving on the main part – best pets for kids
Best pets for kids
These are the 5 best pets for kids. I have taken into account the age of the kid, the lifespan of the pet, how much care the pet requires, and given you a few benefits of keeping the specific pet, and a few disadvantages as well. I hope this helps you to make a good decision about the best pet for your kid.
1. Fish as pets for kids
Age of child: 0 – 3
If your child is very young like a toddler or till he is 3 years old we would say fish are good pets. This age group usually likes to observe and watch animals more than really interact with them. But on the other hand if you have older kids and the younger one is watching them, they will likely be more involved with the fish.
Pros & Cons of Fish as Pets
They come in many colours. They are bright and active creatures. They are easy to maintain and don’t make noise.
Things we’ve experienced with toddlers and fish is that children love to feed their fish. It is a form of interacting with the fish. The toddler has realised that the fish are all active in the presence of food. While this is a good response you might find your child over feeding the fish and leading to a dirty tank and your pet fish dying pretty soon after. Our suggestion is to supervise feeding time with your toddler and put the food away where the child can’t reach it better still not see it.
Lifespan of pet fish
Choosing fish as pets also has to do with understanding how emotionally attached your child gets to things. You can get fish that live from anything from 2 – 10 years. It is commitment either way so choose wisely. Fish are a lovely way to teach life lessons to children.
Care of pet fish
Your child might want to put the water in and give the fish food. Our suggestion is go ahead and let the child do it but as a parent teach your child quantities, teach your child patience while caring for your fish. Have a dialogue with your child: what happens if you put too much food, or what happens if the water isn’t cleaned.
Here are 5 beautiful breeds of fish to choose from, and a detailed understanding of the best pet fish for kids.
2. Turtles as pets for kids
Age of child
5 – 8 years. Turtles are lovely creatures for children to watch and observe and look after. This age group can be responsible to feed, clean, regulate temperature, take the turtle out and put it in the sun. Parental supervision is needed just in case.
Pros & Cons of Turtles as Pets
Pros: Turtles are not only beautiful but calm, gentle, and peaceful creatures. Children can be fascinated by them as they are different from the usual pets. They have a hard shell and the colours they come in are different. You might find your child having deep conversations with the pet turtle and that’s usually because the turtle is in no hurry to go anywhere. They are low maintenance and not needy
Cons: As turtles are reptiles and depending which part of the country you are, and if the temperatures get very low then you might need to provide heaters. So managing temperature could be difficult but once you put your mind to it, it’s not that difficult. The other important factor to consider is turles can carry salmonella so if you have children below the ages of 5 we’d suggest not having a turtle. Though personally we have taught our 3 year son about hygiene, washing hands properly. The decision as a parent is yours.
Lifespan of pet turtles
Some turtles can live up to 50 years. If you are getting something like a Red Eared Slider then be prepared for that kind of commitment. This pet can become the oldest member of your family, and also the wisest. We got ours when she was only 4 months old and now she has grown into a beautiful 5 year old!
Care of pet turtles
Turtles are pretty easy to take care of, they need enough water and enough land to bask in the sun. They need a sunny spot and they have a varied diet. Your child will find feeding time most entertaining. Your child can take them out, pet their shells, and feed them by hand.
3. Budgerigars or Budgies as pets for kids
Age of child
7 onwards. Children at this age understand the concept of being gentle and that birds can fly away. Budgies are very interactive and social creatures, so these pets can be very good if you as a parent will do all the taking care of the pet and allow your child to interact with the bird while it is in the cage.
Pros & Cons of Birds as Pets
Pros: Budgies are lovely bright coloured birds that love to be in groups. They are curious and playful and love attention which is wonderful for any child choosing to interact with it. They can imitate sounds and tones and some can even try saying a few words. We suggest that parents show or model how to handle a bird and how to interact with your pet budgie. We would suggest you get a younger bird so you can and your child can train the bird.
Cons: Budgies are messy. Budgies poop every 15 minutes so the cage can get dirty pretty fast and based on the number of budgies you have, you may have to clean more often. They also like to take baths in their drinking water so changing the water and making sure there is no faecal matter is quite a task. Personally we don’t mind, but especially in the early mornings if you have quite a few of them you will find that they can be pretty loud.
Life span of Budgies
Budgies can live anything from 13 to 16 years. Prepare yourselves to take care of a pet that may quite easily live into you child’s teenage years.
Care of Budgies
Budgies are pretty easy to maintain. They need a variety of seeds for their diet, clean water in abundance, enough room to move around, lots of toys to play with as they are curious and playful birds and a clean cage. Children over 7 can clean out the cage, feed and provide water for the bird after the child has been taught and then supervised by a parent.
4. Guinea Pigs as pets for kids
Age of child
7 onwards. This age group is ready to take on responsibility and understand the needs of another being. Once being taught how to take care of the needs of their guinea pigs they can do it independently. Younger children need to be supervised around pet guinea pigs
Pros & Cons of Guinea Pigs as Pets
Pros: They are easy to take care of, they are vegetarian and vegan and cheaper to look after when compared to other mammals. They are friendly and love the presence of their owners. They are playful. They are small and don’t take up much space. Caring for them also is not very time consuming. You can travel with them and they are pretty sturdy mammals
Cons: They are small creatures with delicate bones that need to be handled with care. Outside the cage they need to be supervised. They are curious and have a tendency to chew on things and can consume something that is toxic. Guinea pigs don’t smell but cage hygiene is paramount and daily cleaning is very important.
Lifespan of Guinea Pigs
4 – 8. This is much shorter than your expected dogs and cats. It is sad but this is life.
Care of Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs as pets are very easy to care for. Give them a balanced diet, plenty of water and keep their cage clean and they will be very happy little pets. Diet is super important! Guinea pigs are social animals so if you are planning to keep a single guinea pig then you need to dedicate a lot of your time and are likely to get depressed. If not, get two of the same gender and that could free up some of your time. Taking them out of the cage allows them to play and provides the exercise and the social interaction that your pet requires.
5. Rabbits as pets for kids
Age of child
10 onwards. Kids at this age are ready to take on responsibility and can care independently for their pet rabbit. The have the ability to clean after their pets without the supervision of an adult
Pros & Cons of Rabbits as Pets
Pros: Rabbits are lovely, gentle, affectionate, docile pets. They don’t make noise. They can develop very deep bonds with their owners. They can be trained to do tricks and to use the litter box. They are highly intelligent. They can travel with you. Their pellet size faeces makes it easier to clean and somehow it doesn’t look unclean.
Cons: Rabbits chew on everything so if your pet rabbit is a free home rabbit then you have to make sure there is nothing dangerous that can be chewed or consumed. Rabbits poop a lot. They can become depressed if left alone for long periods of time. They are more expensive to look after when compared to the other pets we have discussed here. They need space to exercise.
Life span of Rabbits
A well kept rabbit can live from 8 – 12 years.
Care of Rabbits
Taking care of rabbits is pretty simple. They need a well balanced diet of hay, veggies and leafy greens and lots of clean water. They need to be kept cool as the climate gets hotter. They need lots of exercise, for a young child rabbits are great pets. They are social creatures and love to interact and are comfortable to be held. Clean age is vital. They are pretty hardy creatures but they are still small mammals and need to be dealt with gentleness. A child taking care of the bunnies will feel ownership, responsibility and even a sense of pride.
Here is a detailed guide on how to take care of pet rabbits. What do they eat? How often should you feed them? How much should you feed them? Get these answers and more tips.
Which pet will you choose as the best pet for your kid? Let us know in the comments below.
Images credit: Pixabay