7 Best Reptile Pets for Kids (Exotic and Safe!)

Reptile pets? For kids? It may sound dangerous at first, but if you know a lot about scaly pets, you’ll realize that they can be friendly and safe pets – even for children. Aside from traditional choices like cats and dogs, kids can also explore some of the best reptile pets out there, as well as the responsibilities that they bring.

As much as children are amazed by reptiles, not all reptiles are ideal options for kids. You have to be careful with what you purchase, to prevent injuries and the possibility of surrendering the animal to a rescue center.

For this post, we will discuss more about pet ownership among kids, what you have to consider before getting a reptile, and 7 of the safest reptiles options you can choose from.

At what age should a kid have a first pet?

This is a common question we often get from parents whose kids are hankering to own a pet. Usually, kids ages 5 to 10 can have their first pets. These years past the toddler phase is when children gain more coordination in movement, discipline, and comprehension.

Still, you have to factor in the type of pet and personality of your child. A pet is a huge responsibility and you have to ensure that your child understands the weight of this new addition to the household.

best reptile pets for kids

Choosing the Right Pet

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), kids that are between 5 and 10 years old should be given a pet that requires very little care. Some good examples are betta fishes or goldfishes.

Even though these kinds of pets are extremely low maintenance, parental supervision is needed for cleaning the tank, purchasing the food, and keeping the pet alive.

So, when is the best time to let a kid have a pet reptile? Reptiles should be reserved for children that are already in middle school. They are likely more responsible and knowledgeable of the dangers pet ownership could bring.

Since middle school kids are usually distracted with playtime, bonding with friends, and schoolwork, a low maintenance pet like reptiles will suit them well.

Are reptiles good pets for kids?

Given that you’re acquiring the reptile at your child’s right age, it’s a yes. Reptiles are unconventional household pets, but many are very easy to maintain as well.

However, not all kids are fond of reptiles. If your child is afraid of frogs, lizards, and turtles, then you have no reason to consider giving him or her a bearded dragon. After all, being prepared for pet ownership doesn’t rely on just age. Preference and personality are two crucial aspects to factor in here.

Additionally, not all reptiles can be safe pets, even for adults. You have to be picky and you should do your research before buying one. Most importantly, check if your choice of reptile is legal to own as a pet where you live.

Considerations when choosing pets for kids

Regardless if it’s a reptile or a furry pet, you have to consider the following aspects before getting a pet. This is to ensure that your child will be elated to have the animal at home. Besides, you don’t want to end up caring for a Corn Snake or a gecko on your own.

1. The personality of your child

This is the number one aspect that you have to look into. As much as you prefer a specific reptile pet, it will always boil down to what your child likes. If he or she is fond of snakes, you can’t force them to get a turtle or a tiny gecko.

Also, you have to ensure that your child can handle and touch the pet without being afraid.

Also, we recommend that you wait for a few weeks before giving in to the reptile preference of your child. Some kids tend to like a specific pet due to peer pressure or a short-lived interest. This is just one part of ensuring that your child will be dedicated to taking care of the reptile.

2. The space of your home

Can you manage a four-foot terrarium inside your home? How about a 20-gallon fish tank? These are essential considerations to ensure that you can meet the needs of the reptile pet. As much as your child is begging you to own one, you also have to check if your house has the extra space to cater to the home of the new pet.

3. Level of responsibility

This is crucial to ensure that the reptile will be taken care of properly. Reptile pets aren’t made equal, as some will need a higher level of maintenance than others.

For example, tortoises will need a large terrarium. Also, they need to stay in a warm place to thrive, as well as a hiding place for them to sleep/feel safe in.

On the other hand, leopard geckos are virtually maintenance-free. Your kid can leave it inside an enclosed cage, feed it, and clean up once in a while.

Based on your child’s personality, you should ensure that they are prepared to handle the responsibility of owning a specific pet. Being the parent who has to take care of, feed, clean up after, and maintain the pet all by themselves is extremely discouraging. Absolutely make sure that they accept all responsibilities and are in this for the long haul, as many reptiles are capable of living long lives.

4. The maintenance level of the pet

Lastly, check how demanding the reptile is in terms of overall care. Even if your child is responsible enough, it’s never a good decision to subject a kid to the huge responsibility of owning a high-maintenance pet.

This is even much more true if the said reptile is your child’s first pet. Your child may develop an internalized fear or loathing toward any pet if you force them to take care of a pet not suited for their responsibility level.

Before you Buy a Reptile

As much as we’ve covered the basics above, we also want to emphasize the following points below. These are more related to the pet portion of things than your child.

1. Consider its lifespan

Do you want a pet that your kid can grow up with? Most reptiles live long, but some will not last for more than four years. To give you an idea, here are some of the potential reptile pets and their life expectancy:

Leopard Gecko – an average of 10 to 20 years under ideal conditions
Bearded Dragons – an average of 10 years under ideal conditions (some can live up to 15+)
King Snakes – about 12 to 15 years
Tortoises – up to 100 years (yes, it can outlive you and your children if cared for in an ideal environment)

2. Playtime expectations

Children are inquisitive beings – they always want to touch, cuddle, and interact with pets. This is a crucial factor, especially if you’re dealing with reptiles.

With this, reptiles are ideal for less touchy kids. Since some reptiles are nocturnal, they are better left alone during the day. Also, the likes of tortoises aren’t advisable to touch since they can carry various bacteria. With that said, they still can be handled occasionally as long as you make sure to thoroughly clean your hands before and after handling.

Something else to consider is that reptiles rarely respond to training and tricks. If this is what your kid wants, you’d be better off taking a look at some other pets.

3. Size

Always consider the adult size of the pet. This way, you can prepare for the demands of housing and maintenance.

Leopard geckos stay small for the rest of their lives, but this isn’t the case with tortoises, snakes, and bearded dragons.

If you can’t provide a larger cage or terrarium later on, reptiles may not be the perfect suit for your child.

7 Best Reptile Pets for Kids

If you read everything above and are still dead set on getting a reptile, here are 7 of your top picks for children:

1. Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are one of the most favorited reptile pets, thanks to their friendly demeanor. They don’t mind being handled frequently, as long as you’re not hurting them or discomforting them in any way. In fact, many bearded dragons are very interactive with their owners, and some get along exceptionally well.

They get their name due to the skin fold on their neck, which looks like a spiky beard. Although they may seem intimidating, they are safe for kids. Take note: they will open their mouth sometimes and puff out their beard to scare off predators.

Most of all, bearded dragons are morning reptiles. This is unique since most reptiles are known for their nocturnal habits. So, while your child is sleeping, they are sleeping too. It also makes them an excellent choice for any curious kids out there who enjoy hanging around and interacting with their pet. 

2. King Snakes

King Snake

If your kid is older and is begging for a snake, one of the best beginner snake pets is the California King Snake. They are called kings because of their hunting skills. Although constrictors, they make safe pets if handled and domesticated well.

The good thing about King Snakes is they don’t grow too long. Their maximum adult size is 4 feet, which is manageable for older children.

However, King Snakes can be nippy, so it may take a little while to get used to its mood. Anyway, there’s nothing major to worry about with this pet since these snakes are non-venomous.

We recommend getting King Snakes from a reliable breeder, so you’ll get a calmer and overall happier one.

3. Russian Tortoises

Russian Turtle

Russian tortoises are small tortoises commonly found in Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, and other countries. They thrive on dry climates with gentle variations in temperature.

Unlike other tortoises that get really large, these pets only grow up to 6 inches in length. Take note: a Russian tortoise will have an activity peak for about three months – then it will hibernate for six months during cold seasons.

Overall, Russian tortoises are virtually harmless for kids who can take care of them. They are slow, not very aggressive, and are generally laid-back animals. A sufficiently sized terrarium with a hide box, proper heating, and a good diet will keep these animals happy.

4. Leopard Geckos

Pet Leopard Gecko

For children who get scared of larger reptiles, the leopard gecko is an excellent introduction to pet ownership. This reptile eats crickets and other tiny insects which are very easy to acquire. Also, since they are small, they won’t take up too much space in your home.

Usually, leopard geckos can grow to a maximum of 8 inches, while some can reach up to a foot long.

Aside from a terrarium, make sure that you give the gecko a moist hide box with moss where it can shed its skin properly. Also, they need specific heating equipment, proper diet, and a terrarium large enough to stay healthy.

5. Corn Snakes

Pet Corn Snake

If your kid wants a colorful snake pet, they will love Corn Snakes. These constrictors grow up to 5 feet long, but can be shorter depending on the breeder/breed.

Also, Corn Snakes live long under ideal conditions, roughly around 15 to 20 years. Although they are snakes, Corn Snakes are docile and don’t mind being handled.

If you’re getting a Corn Snake, you should give it a hide box in its cage since it has a low-key nature. Also, get a sturdy cage with a decent lock as these snakes are escape artists.

They won’t hurt anyone if they escaped, but they could potentially get lost.

6. Chinese Water Dragons

Chinese Water Dragon

Unlike iguanas, water dragons are friendlier. They share a similar appearance to iguanas, but water dragons tend to be shorter, at roughly 3 feet.

The good thing about this pet is they enjoy being handled. Still, we recommend sourcing it from a professional breeder to avoid any possibility of aggression. Chinese water dragons will very likely rely heavily on the parents to maintain its well-being. These are not simple reptiles, and may require much more work then others.

In addition, this reptile loves swimming, so you have to set up an enclosure with a dry area where it can rest. They will need a lot of space, so if you don’t have enough room for one, look at some of the other reptiles on this list.

As much as water dragons are safe for kids, they are high maintenance pets. You really have to put in a lot of effort with this pet, so be warned! Although, proud Chinese Water Dragon owners say they are still very much with it.

7. Ball Pythons

Pet Ball Python Snake

Another beginner snake that you can get for your kid is a Ball Python. They are easy to handle and very friendly if domesticated well.

Plus, ball pythons grow to a maximum of 5 feet, although you can find a breed that has a maximum length of 3 feet.

NOTE: Never give your child a ball python captured from the wild. These undomesticated reptiles will be very stressed and could attack anyone.

Although captive-bred ball pythons are quite expensive, they are worth it. It isn’t worth risking your child’s health just to save some money.

Wrapping Up

These best reptile pets for kids are great introductions to non-conventional pets. With proper supervision, children will have fun taking care of their scaly friends.

Still, you should always get these pets from captive-bred sources. This is to ensure that your son or daughter will have a friendly and safe pet.

Even though reptiles in general aren’t a common pet choice, they can still be a wonderful pet that can create countless memories with your child and your family.

If nothing on this list was of interested to you or your children, check out some other reptiles here.

What do you think of our suggestions here? Does/Did your kid(s) own any of these? Or, maybe you did or currently do! Let us know in the comment section!