Options and Ideas for adding a new pet into a young family
Depending on your child’s temperament and maturity, you may consider getting them their first pet. The following animals are suitable pets for children between the ages of four to seven. These are all easier to care for pets that also teach children lifelong lessons about how to treat and care for their pets and learn responsibility at an age responsible level.
Crested Geckos are a great pet for younger children to teach them patience and kindness. Crested geckos are also incredibly docile and will happily sit on their owners’ hands. The best time to watch a reptile such as the crested gecko is early morning and in the early evening, so lizard-time is ideally timed to be before school and before bedtime. Geckos are nocturnal and need a month or so to adjust to their habitat. Geckos need to be touched gently and if they are ever afraid or shocked, a crested gecko will lose or “drop,” their tails. Children can learn to measure food for the gecko and mixing the powdered supplement with water. A younger child can also help set up the terrarium and get hands-on in designing their lizards’ environment. Reptiles also teach children about hygiene as all reptiles can carry salmonella and require proper handwashing after being handled or cared for. Geckos encourage children to keep their hands clean so are practical lesson teachers.
Parakeets are also known as budgies. Parakeets are relatively easy to care for, do not require a lot of space, and are not a pet that makes a huge mess or requires training. Younger children can observe and watch the parents or older siblings care for a parakeet but once a child is around seven, they can start participating in budgie-care and can learn to be gentle to pets. Parakeets are affectionate birds who enjoy kind handling. With training, parakeets can learn to speak so this is another way that young children can interact with their first pet uniquely and excitingly. Parakeets can learn several dozen words so children can teach parakeets to say their names and even count along with them. These small birds are delicate and need to be handled gently and without being startled. Parakeets can help children learn to be patient and calm. A young child can wash and fill the food and water feeders in the cage while others do daily cage maintenance. Parakeets can live well into their teens so a parakeet will grow up with your child and is a long-term commitment.
Canaries and Finches
Canaries and Finches are long-lived (10-15 years on average) birds so will be in your child’s life until they are well into their teens. They are great for younger, active children because they do not need to be handled often and do best in pairs of groups so you will also have multiple birds. Canaries and finches are flock animals and do not thrive when alone. While known for being tiny and anxious, a happy and healthy canary is known for its magnificent singing. Finches are quiet but make up for their silence with a beautiful display for feathers and funny antics and interaction with their friends. If your child is better suited to a pet that is observed rather than played with, these are good choices. Finches cannot be handled, and canaries require long training, great trust in a person, and a great deal of patience to ever be able to perch on their owner’s finger. These are better pets to watch instead of pets to interact. Canaries must be kept safe and away from all other household pets and have a delicate constitution. They are very fragile. Children can feed, water, and change the newspaper of a finch or canary cage and sweep up or vacuum the area daily.
Rats are incredible pets. They love humans and are naturally gentle and affectionate when properly socialized. Rats are smart and not the icky creature many people think of when they hear the word “rat.” Pet rats are fastidious and groom often. Rats also provide a routine into a child’s day at home so they develop good habits in time management and keeping their word to do chores, such as feeding the rat before they leave for the bus stop each day. Having a rat with the same gender pet friend to share their cage will make your rat less lonely when your family is not around and show animal interaction to the child. Rats can learn to eagerly interact and squeal with joy for human attention and will curl up on you and watch TV. Children can feed rats their special feed, small pieces of veggies as treats, and spot clean the cage as well as the food and water dishes. Early elementary school-age children can also provide rat enrichment mixes and create food foraging treats. Children can actively bond with a pet rat and have a highly interactive relationship. Rat companionship comes with the fact of facing death after only a couple years so a rat brings great friendship but will lead to a very uncomfortable conversation and painful life lesson in about three years from homecoming.
Guinea Pigs are common classroom pets because they are durable, quite mellow, social, and are easy to care for. Guinea pigs also live longer than rats but are equally interactive and can remain with you for five to seven years before crossing the rainbow bridge. Guinea pigs also come in many varieties. Long hair guinea pigs need additional grooming a gentle hand can provide, and children can provide hay, salad, and food and water to the pig. Guinea pigs are like rats and are social so double the space and expense for a pair of pigs if serious about raising guinea pigs. To prevent population issues, get a same-sex pair. Breeding can be traumatic for children as guinea pigs sometimes eat their young.