Caring for a pet teaches compassion, responsibility, and empathy. When a child has their own pet that depends on them for its needs, they are able to learn skills essential to growth and emotional maturity. However, high-maintenance pets such as dogs and cats are too much for a child to handle alone, as they require training, guidance, exercise, veterinary checkups, transportation, and other tasks that ultimately fall to the parents. Thankfully, there are a number of animals that make amazing pets for kids. Children are perfectly capable of assuming the responsibilities for the care of these beginner pets.
Though images of green slime and dark sewers might come to mind, pet rats are far from dirty creatures. These curious and friendly rodents can be kept in a number of cage types with bedding, newspaper, and a place to burrow and curl up. They eat pellets and rodent chow available at any pet store and can also be fed treats such as apples and peanuts. Their cages are easy to clean as they tend to pick a corner to do their business. Rats have no problem being handled and may even enjoy curling up near the warmth of someone's neck or crawling up a sleeve. With a pet rat, kids may find their new friend likes to hitch a ride on adventures around the house.
The stunning, flowing fins of a betta fish are a joy to watch. These brightly coloured fish are the simplest aquatic pet to care for. They can be fed a diet of fish pellets and live in tanks sized five gallons and over. Kids can practice animal care by providing food and cleaning the aquarium before owning pets with greater needs. Though fish can't be handled, the sight of graceful fins as the betta darts, drifts, and turns is fascinating to witness.
Few things exist that are cuter than a round, nibbling hamster. Pocket-sized and beady-eyed, hamsters are happiest burrowing in bedding and shelters, munching on rodent chow, and running in exercise wheels. Because of their small size and tendency to skitter, hamsters must be handled with care. Kids learn delicacy from gently holding their hamster and caring for it. Nothing will melt the heart quite like the puffy cheeks and twitching pink nose of a fluffy hamster.
Nature's chillest rodent, the guinea pig is a social creature that thrives on attention. They're affectionate and cuddly, making them perfect for kids who want a pet they can interact with. Though they're tough critters, they need guinea pig food, a water bowl, a large cage, bedding, hay, chew toys, and a hidey hole to live happily. In addition to caring for them, children can feed them treats to further deepen their bond.
Every kid on the block would be jealous of someone owning one of these neat little spotted lizards. Hardy for reptiles, leopard geckos live up to twenty years and have excellent survivability. Their bulbous tails store enough fat to sustain them for a whole month in the rocky areas of the desert -- though it's bad for their health to go without eating for so long. Their diet consists of live crickets and meal worms, which are inexpensive and relatively easy to keep, so long as no one's squeamish. They can be housed in a 10 to 20-gallon terrarium. Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, they're active at night and simply need a day lamp under the tank heater to keep warm. Unlike other geckos, leos have claws instead of adhesive pads and can't scale glass. That doesn't mean they don't like to climb, however, and are happiest with prop rocks and structures to crawl over and hide in. Decking out the ultimate terrarium can give kids a fun and creative project. After initial setup and instruction, kids can take over caring for a leopard gecko on their own. Most of these lizards are calm and tamable, making them perfect for handling, though they don't need social interaction to thrive.
Any of these animals would make fitting first-time pets for children, though it's important to monitor and instruct kids to ensure every pet is getting the love and care it needs. Daily tasks of supplying food and water and cleaning cages teach discipline, and the emotional connection between pet and owner supports children as they develop and learn more about the world and its inhabitants. Owning a pet is a big responsibility that shows children both the importance of hard work and the joy of bonding with an animal companion.