5 Child-Friendly Reptiles Your Family Will Love

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Almost every child ends up wanting a pet at some point in their development. The truth is, animals and children go together like two peas in a pod. They help to teach children empathy, discipline, responsibility, commitment, and compassion. Children have a natural curiosity and affinity towards animals of all kinds – including reptiles!

Don’t panic just yet. As a parent, you may not be too thrilled about the idea of getting a reptile for your child to take care of, but hear us out. Compared to other common pets, most reptiles: 

  • Don’t take up as much space.
  • Don’t take up as much time.
  • Don’t carry odors, shed fur and dander, or trigger allergies.

However, despite the many pros of owning a reptile, it cannot be stressed enough that you MUST do proper research before adopting a new pet. Reptiles require totally different care than pets like cats and dogs, and as such, new owners are strongly encouraged to do their homework ahead of time to ensure they will be able to provide excellent, lifelong care for their scaly friend.

This includes but is not limited to, researching…

  • Habitat requirements
  • Dietary and supplement needs
  • Proper care and handling
  • Responsible breeders to purchase from

Perhaps the only truly negative aspect of reptile ownership for children, once we dig past all of the myths and unfounded fears, is their long lifespan.

On average, reptiles live twenty years or more, and children have notoriously short-lived attention spans and interests. Still, we can choose to look at this as a positive aspect, when you consider the fact that typical first pets like guinea pigs, gerbils, and hamsters only live for less than a handful of years. Inevitably, your child would have to experience the heartbreak of loss, perhaps earlier than you think they will be ready.

Depending on your child’s interests and your own comfort level, there is a wide variety of appropriate pet reptiles for children.

Let’s break down the basics so you can get an idea of which species may be right for your family. Once you decide, be sure to conduct more research about the specific species.




Lizards make great reptilian pets for children who are, or whose parents are, uneasy around snakes. Let’s be honest – the lack of limbs and eyelids can creep some people out!

Compared to snakes, lizards tend to require more frequent meals and cage cleanings. Smaller species of lizards don’t need to eat rodents, which can be a plus, but you will usually need to secure live insects and fresh produce instead. Smaller species of lizards tend to do better than snakes in small enclosures. Most hobbyists argue that lizards are also more intelligent and easier to bond with than snakes.

Bearded Dragons


Bearded dragons are a bit needier compared to some other lizards with their space requirements, dietary preparation, and UVB lighting needs. On the other hand, their larger size makes them hardier when it comes to handling. They’re usually more interactive with their owners, too. What’s more, they come in a wide variety of different types of color morphs.

But, be warned! You’ll want to find a reputable breeder should you decide to bring home a “beardie”. Avoid chain pet stores as they tend to not provide the best care for these fragile reptiles and are notorious for misguiding customers on everything from proper diet to tank setup, care, and beyond. By finding a responsible breeder, you’ll not only increase your odds of bringing home a healthy pet, but you’ll have an expert’s brain to pick that is just a phone call or text away should you need any advice or help. The same can be said for any reptile on this list.

Bearded Dragon Facts at a Glance:
Lifespan: 10-15 Years
Size: 12-24 Inches
Enclosure: 55-Gallon Aquarium or 48” x 12” x 18” Enclosure
Habitat Requirements: 90-110°F; 35-40% Humidity; UVB Lighting Required
Diet: 80% live insects, 20% fresh vegetables


Leopard Geckos


Thanks to their small size, low temperature requirements, commercially available diet, and easygoing nature, leopard geckos could be considered one of the gold standards for pet reptiles for children. It really doesn’t get much easier than this. Still, it’s important to thoroughly research their care requirements before owning one.

Leopard Gecko Facts at a Glance:
Lifespan: 10-20 Years
Size: 7-10 Inches
Enclosure: 10-Gallon Aquarium or 20” x 10” x 12” Enclosure
Habitat Requirements: 75-95°F; 20-40% Humidity; Terrestrial Set-Up (Prioritize floor space)
Diet: Live insects dusted with calcium powder




Despite their bad rap, snakes have an inherently “cool” factor to most children. Many people picture massive Burmese pythons and anacondas when they think about pet snakes. Luckily, many species stay small and manageable for children to handle and care for.

Snakes are great low-maintenance pets thanks to the simple fact that they only need to eat once a week – or less! This also means they typically only poop once a week, keeping the required clean-up efforts minimal.

Corn Snake


Corn snakes are the age-old “go-to” first pet snake for any new reptile keeper, young or old. They’re common, native to the United States, so their temperature and humidity parameters aren’t hard to achieve, come in a dazzling array of colors and patterns, stay relatively small, love to eat, and they’re generally pretty calm during handling. What more could you ask for in a snake?

Corn Snake Facts at a Glance:
Lifespan: 10-15 Years
Size: 24-72 Inches
Enclosure: 20-Gallon Aquarium or 30” x 12” x 12” Enclosure
Habitat Requirements: 75-90°F; 50-70% Humidity
Diet: Adult mice or young rats


Kenyan Sand Boa


Kenyan sand boas are only just starting to get the popularity they deserve, especially as pets for children. They aren’t as squirmy as corn snakes and other colubrids, they’re a bit thicker and sturdier when compared to rosy boas and hognose snakes, and they tend to be better eaters than ball pythons – all great qualities for a child’s pet.

Kenyan Sand Boa Facts at a Glance:
Lifespan: 15-20 Years
Size: 15-24 Inches
Enclosure: 10-Gallon Aquarium or 20” x 10” x 12” Enclosure
Habitat Requirements: 78-95°F; 30-50% Humidity
Diet: Appropriately-sized mice




Turtles and Tortoises

Out of all types of reptiles, chelonians (turtles and tortoises) are probably the most difficult for children to keep.

Even the smallest of aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles require a large aquarium, expensive filtration equipment, and complicated wet/dry set-ups. Most species don’t do well with frequent hands-on contact, either. They’re also notorious for spreading salmonella easier than snakes and lizards. However, that risk can be mitigated by following proper sanitation and hygiene practices.

Still, suppose your child is adamant about turtle ownership. In that case, you could try to look into caring for smaller species like box turtles or hardy species like painted turtles. Terrestrial tortoises help to avoid many of those issues.

But above all else, you’ll want to ensure that you’re prepared to provide lifelong care to whatever turtle you ultimately bring home. The last thing our environment needs is the introduction of more invasive species!

Pancake Tortoise


Many tortoises get too large for the average family to care for. Still, some species stay small enough to live in an indoor enclosure, like the pancake tortoise. They’re still not the most fantastic pets for very young children because they can become stressed from frequent handling and simply aren’t very active. However, for the right (probably older), dedicated kid, they can make the perfect first pet chelonian.

Pancake Tortoise Facts at a Glance:
Lifespan: 30+ Years
Size: 5-7 Inches
Enclosure: 40-Gallon Aquarium or 48” x 13” x 16” Enclosure
Habitat Requirements: 70-100°F; 40-55% Humidity; Terrestrial Set-Up
Diet: Vegetables, greens, flowers, fruits, and succulents

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