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Best Lizards for Kids + Reptile Pets for Kids (Mom’s Guide!)

Although a lot of people own reptiles, it’s important to know which are the best lizards for kids. Some reptiles are better suited for adults, so in this article, we’ll go over the best reptile pets for kids as well as a guide to take care of them.

Boy holding a green pet lizard.
This boy and his pet lizard are inseparable. It’s been a great reptile pet for him.

Why Reptiles Make Good Pets for Kids

Reptiles can be the best pets for kids for many reasons. They’re generally easy to care for and can teach your kids valuable life lessons. Plus, your kids will love to show off their unique pet!

Pets Teach Children About Empathy

Small children can be a little self-focused. By giving them a pet to love and care for, they’ll be able to see first-hand how another being reacts.

Kids pick up on patterns very quickly, so before long they’ll be able to know exactly what makes their new reptile friends happy and what doesn’t. They’ll also be able to put themselves in their pet’s shoes, making them more empathetic at an early age.

Kids Will Learn How to be Responsible

Needless to say, children don’t necessarily enjoy doing chores. However, they’ll love taking responsibility for their new reptile pet. Even very young children can fill the water bowl as one of their daily tasks. As they grow with their scaley friend, they can start taking on more duties.

Your Reptile Will Make a Great Playmate

Children have a lot to say but don’t always have someone there to listen at every turn. Having reptiles can be a great idea for kids because they can sit next to their enclosure and talk to them any time they need to.

Of course, the new reptile friend will be more than happy to have some company (even if they listen to the same story seven times).

Reptile Pets Are Typically Easy to Care for

One of the best pets for kids is a reptile because of how easy it is to care for them. Once they have their enclosure ready to go, there’s not much you need to worry about besides maintaining the cleanliness of their home.

They don’t need training or a lot of supervision, so a reptile is a perfect pet for busy parents who may not have time to train a dog.

Reptiles Make Children More Interested in Nature

Because reptiles are more thought of as wild animals, it will be like taking a little piece of nature and bringing it inside. You can use your new pet to teach your children about nature using their environmental needs and food requirements as examples.

Which Are The Best Reptile Pets for Your Kids?

Even the best reptile pets for kids may not be the best for your family. Consider the factors below as you read through the list. Keeping these in mind will help you make a perfect choice.

Factors to Consider:

  • Care Required – Although most reptiles are pretty simple to care for, some need more care or have different needs than others. For example, some will eat other live animals which could make your child a little squeamish.
  • Lifespan – Some reptiles, such as tortoises, live a very long time. If you plan on moving or think that you may not be able to care for them long-term, it may be better to opt for a pet with a shorter lifespan.
  • Cost – As always, cost is a big factor when making any decision in life. Some reptiles are relatively inexpensive to care for, while others may require more costly environments or foods. Even if the reptile itself costs less, be sure to add up the recurring care costs to get the best idea.

Best Reptile Pets for Kids

Below, we gathered information on reptiles that are gentle with children, easy to care for, and fun for kids to watch. Keep the above factors in mind while choosing the best reptile pets for your kids.

Best Lizards for Kids

First, we’ll cover several lizards that get along well with kids.

Bearded Dragon Lizards

A bearded dragon lizard makes a very nice pet for older children and teenagers.
A Bearded Dragon Lizard is a really cool pet for older children and teenagers.

Wild bearded dragon lizards are found in the warm, arid regions of Australia. Since being bred and sold in the United States, they’ve actually started morphing into different colors not common in the wild.

Bearded dragons have grown in popularity, and are known as one of the best reptile pets for kids.

About Bearded Dragon Lizards

Average Adult Size:18 to 22 inches long
Average Life Span:10 to 15 years
Diet:Invertebrates
Average Cost:$60-$100 (up to $400 for bearded dragons with unique morphs)

Living Requirements for Bearded Dragons

A full-grown bearded-dragon lizard will need a terrarium of at least 40 gallons in volume, or around 36 inches long, to live in.

If possible, a bigger enclosure around 48″ x 24″ would allow them to get plenty of exercise for the days you don’t want a dragon running around your home.

The enclosure should have a screened lid to keep them enclosed while still having access to plenty of oxygen. Because bearded dragon lizards are from hot and dry environments, they’ll need a heating source for their enclosure.

Tips to Make Bearded Dragons Feel at Home:

  • A bottom lined with reptile carpet is best for young bearded dragons or bearded dragons under 8 inches. For an adult, a bioactive substrate can be used as an alternative. If using carpet, be sure to clean up waste and clean bedding at least once a month.
  • Give them something to climb on, such as secured driftwood or rock that they can use to get a little closer to the heat.
  • Make sure to add a few branches to hide behind or climb on, as well.

Food Requirements for Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragon lizards are omnivores and feed on both plants and small insects.

Younger bearded dragons will mostly eat small insects and transition more to vegetables as they age.

It’s important to make sure that whichever they’re fed, their bowl and water stay clean for them.

Bearded Dragon Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

Along with daily spot cleaning, bearded dragon lizards need their enclosures to be fully cleaned out every month or so. The cleaner you can keep it, the less it will need to be deep cleaned.

Bearded Dragon Temperament

Here are a couple of things that are good to know before you spring for one of these cool lizards.

  • Bearded dragon lizards are very territorial, and may defend their turf from other males or fight for a female
  • When bearded dragons feel threatened their mouth will open, they’ll puff out their beard, and hiss

It’s important for kids to learn to respect the boundaries of their Bearded Dragon. These lizards are capable of enjoying a great relationship with humans when they’re understood.

Leopard Geckos

A leopard gecko on a log is a reptile pet for kids.
Leopard Geckos are super cool pets, but they are nocturnal, so they are a bit notorious for hiding out during the day.

Leopard geckos are nocturnal reptiles that can be found in a variety of morphs. They make great pets for children because they’re generally easy to tame.

They’re ground-dwelling and don’t have sticky toe pads, so no need to worry about them climbing on your walls.

Unlike other types of geckos, leopard geckos have eyelids.

About Leopard Geckos

Average Adult Size:6.5 to 8 inches long
Average Life Span:10-20 years
Diet:Invertebrates
Average Cost:$20-$100

Living Requirements for Leopard Geckos

If you plan on having more than one leopard gecko, you’ll need at least a 15-gallon tank lined with some reptile carpet, calci-sand, or sani-chips. You can also use an old fish tank to house them.

There should only be one male gecko per habitat.

Geckos love to climb and hide, so be sure to include lots of rocks, logs, and non-toxic plants. Since they shed, a damp hide box may be helpful for making them feel safe.

The enclosure should be spot cleaned each day to remove food scraps and feces. At least once a month, fully clean their tank to ensure proper health.

Food Requirements for Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos feed on insects such as crickets and waxworms. Younger geckos will require feeding multiple times per day while adults can skip days between eating.

The insects you feed your gecko will determine the health of your pet. Prior to feeding the insects to your gecko, the insects, themselves, need to be fed a nutritious meal.

Coating the insects with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement weekly before feeding is also important for optimal health.

Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

As with most of the reptiles on this list, spot cleaning is important to maintain overall health. If using a reptile carpet, this will need to be replaced or cleaned at least once a week.

The tank will need deep cleaning at least 2-4 times per month.

Notable Leopard Gecko Behaviors

  • They are nocturnal, so your geckos will be most active at night while hiding during the day
  • When leopard geckos shed, they will eat their skin
  • Overhandling may cause stress to your pet, so it’s important to keep it to a minimum
  • It’s very important that leopard geckos are never grabbed by their tail, or they may dislocate it and drop it

Leopard Geckos are one of the most beautiful reptile pets for kids. However, they can’t handle rough treatment, so they’re better for older children.

Crested Geckos

A yellow crested gecko on a log with its tongue sticking out.
Crested Geckos are a really fun lizard for kids, and they look super cool.

It was actually thought that crested geckos were extinct until they were rediscovered around 1994.

Because they’re such low-maintenance pets, their popularity has grown ever since and many families find them to be the best reptile pets for kids.

Sometimes referred to as eyelash geckos, crested geckos have distinctive eyelashes. Like many other popular pet reptiles, they come from Australia.

About Crested Geckos

Average Size:5-8 inches long
Average Life Span:10-20 years
Diet:Omnivore
Average Cost:$50-$100 (up to $5,000 for crested geckos with “designer” morphs)

Living Requirements for Crested Geckos

Crested geckos should be housed in a 20-gallon terrarium as the minimum, but the larger the better.

They’re very active and require a lot of vertical space to climb. Similar to other reptiles, there should only be one male per tank.

Because crested geckos are climbers, a tall terrarium filled with rocks, branches, cork bark, bamboo, and vines at different heights will keep them happy.

Add in non-toxic or live plants, such as dracaena or ficus, for them to hide behind.

Food Requirements for Crested Geckos

Being nocturnal, crested geckos should be fed in the evening. Young geckos will need to be fed daily and adults only need feeding three times per week.

Crested geckos will feed mostly on insects such as roaches, silkworms, and waxworms. Because mealworms are undigestible for geckos, these should be avoided.

When feeding geckos, only feed them insects that are smaller than the space between their eyes. Like leopard geckos, the prey needs to be fed nutritious foods prior to them eating.

Crested geckos also enjoy fruit, and can eat mashed fruit or jarred baby food several times per week. They enjoy bananas, peaches, apricots, mangoes, pears, and passion fruit.

Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

In addition to daily spot cleaning, the tank and decorations need deep cleaning at least once per month.

Notable Crested Gecko Behaviors

  • Like other geckos, you should never grab a crested gecko by its tail. Unlike other geckos, if they drop their tail it will not grow back.
  • They will eat their skin immediately after shedding.
  • Crested geckos are very skilled climbers and may try (and succeed) to break out of their tank.

These Geckos are so unique and make really nice pets for kids of all ages, provided they learn to treat the Gecko gently.

Best Reptile Pets for Kids

If you aren’t looking for a lizard in particular, we have three more reptile pet options that are really fun and easy pets for kids to enjoy.

Corn Snake

A bright orange corn snake coiled on a log in an aquarium.
Corn snakes are beautiful reptile pets for kids. They’re easy to care for and have unique coloring.

Believe it or not, corn snakes are one of the best reptile pets for kids! While there are a variety of pet snakes, corn snakes are one of the most popular.

They have gorgeous colors and patterns, are easy to care for, and are generally docile and gentle.

Although they reach up to 5 and a half feet long, they’re overall small enough to keep from intimidating children.

About Corn Snakes

Average Adult Size:4-5.5 feet long
Average Life Span:15-20 years
Diet:Carnivores
Average Cost:$20-$50 (up to $200 for unique morphs)

Living Requirements for Corn Snakes

Baby corn snakes will do just fine living in a shoebox-sized enclosure for the first several months of their lives. Once they reach adulthood, they will need at least a 20-gallon long reptile terrarium.

Snakes prefer to be alone, so adding more than one snake to an enclosure can be stressful.

Be sure to give them plenty of climbing branches as well as some reptile hides to feel happy and secure.

Food Requirements for Corn Snakes

Corn snakes feed mostly on rodents such as mice, lizards, and sometimes frogs. Unlike the other reptiles listed thus far, snakes don’t recognize crickets as food.

When corn snakes are born, they usually eat newborn mice. As they get older, they increase to adult mice. Snakes prefer to hunt their prey and eat them live and will be expecting live food as babies.

The good news is that it won’t typically take too long to get them used to thawed-out mice. Baby corn snakes only need to be fed once every 5 to 7 days, and adults require once every 7 to 10 days.

Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

One great thing about caring for snakes is how infrequently they eat and therefore, use the bathroom. Spot cleaning shouldn’t be too hard to keep up with, which is convenient for those who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to their new pet.

The substrate should be cleaned out and replaced at least once every couple of months, but more if needed.

Notable Corn Snake Behaviors

Corn snakes are non-venomous and super docile, but they can still cause problems. Here are a couple things you should know about corn snakes.

  • Corn snakes are adept at escaping their enclosure, so it’s important to have a lid with a lock or clamping mechanism.
  • Although adult corn snakes are docile, younger snakes may nip. This should stop as they age, but it can make young children very afraid of the snake.

These snakes are so much fun for kids to hang around with, and if you can keep them from escaping they’re usually good family members too.

Russian Tortoises

A Russian Tortoise eating a fresh strawberry outdoors in the sunshine.
Russian Tortoises are so adorable and can be super tame and love to pal around with kids.

Russian tortoises are small reptiles that can be found throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

With gentle handling, these tortoises will become tame and friendly.

They can live up to 50 years, sometimes even longer! Your kids can enjoy watching their childhood pet grow into adulthood with them.

About Russian Tortoises

Average Size:6 to 8 inches long
Average Life Span:Up to 50+ years
Diet:Herbivore
Average Cost:$100-$200

Living Requirements for Russian Tortoises

If kept indoors, they will need a cage at least 36″ x 12″ big with a digestible substrate, such as alfalfa pellets. Avoid coarse substrates, such as sand, that may scratch their shell.

For an outdoor enclosure, make sure it’s at least 48″x 48″ big with a screed cover to keep them from escaping but allowing sunshine. It needs to be buried at least a foot into the ground to keep the Russian tortoises from digging underneath and escaping.

Depending on the location, you may need a dehumidifier or supplemental heating. They should always have access to a shallow container of water that the tortoise can drink from and soak in.

Food Requirements for Russian Tortoises

Russian tortoises require foods that are high in fiber and calcium and low in protein and fat. Finely chopped dark leafy green veggies, carrots, and squash are great sources of nutrition. On occasion, they enjoy fruit as a treat.

They tend to use their water bowl as a bathroom, so this will likely need to be cleaned and disinfected daily. Uneaten foods also need to be removed within 24 hours.

Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

Each day you’ll need to spot clean to ensure that they have a fresh water source and no access to spoiled foods.

Weekly, clean and disinfect their habitat with a 3% bleach solution, and rinse. Russian tortoises tend to eat substrate, so new and clean substrate should be added during the weekly cleaning.

Notable Russian Tortoise Behaviors

  • They are very active and can be good escape artists.
  • They can be really fun to hang around if they’re tamed and used to human company.

Painted Turtles

A red, yellow, and black striped painted turtle is a nice reptile pet for kids.
Painted Turtles are pretty popular in zoo enclosures, making them a favorite reptile pet for kids also.

When you think of the best reptile pets for kids, a turtle may come to mind.

Like Russian tortoises, painted turtles can become tame after gentle handling. They can also live quite a long life, which is a huge factor to consider when choosing your new pet.

About Painted Turtles

Average Adult Size:5-6 inches long
Average Life Span:20-50 years
Diet:Omnivores
Average Cost:$15-$25

Living Requirements for Painted Turtles

Newborns thrive in a warm environment that has plenty of live plants and clean water. They like to have a lot of plants floating on the water, as well as submerged plants to swim through and hide behind.

The enclosure should be at least 3 times the size of the turtle’s shell, ideally at least 30 gallons. They feed on insects, larvae, and fish, and adult painted turtles do well in an outdoor pond.

Some species of painted turtles will hibernate, so they’ll need a hibernation site with piles of mulch, hay, and leaves.

If housed indoors, a 30-gallon tub can suffice for one or a few painted turtles. They’ll need a filtration system for their water, as well as a heat source.

Food Requirements for Painted Turtles

In the wild, painted turtles feed on a variety of invertebrates and aquatic plants. They mainly eat fish, crayfish, and tadpoles.

Young turtles are carnivorous and will eat worms and crickets, as well. As they continue to age, they’ll transition more into enjoying veggies like water lettuce, romaine lettuce, and other greens.

A mix of lettuce and high-quality pelleted water fed to them daily along with cut-up fish weekly will allow them to meet their nutritional needs. This is important in order to prevent health problems and shell defects.

Habitat Maintenance and Overall Care

Their enclosure needs to be deep cleaned at least every two weeks, with regular spot cleaning. It’s important to rinse everything thoroughly as even a small trace of detergent can harm them.

Notable Painted Turtle Behaviors

  • Painted turtles don’t like being held and prefer to be alone
  • They’re nocturnal, so most of their activity will be during the night

These preferences can be hard for younger children to understand. However, painted turtles can be quite amiable once tamed.

Final Thoughts

Reptiles are low-maintenance animals that children love to watch in their enclosures. Choosing the best reptile pets for kids depends on factors like the time it takes to maintain care for the pet and what kind of behaviors your own children would like to see.

Younger children may be too rough with smaller reptiles, or they may fear the snake. For families that move often, a painted turtle or Russian tortoise may be a hard commitment to keep with them living 50+ years.

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