Kids love reptiles! But which reptiles make good pets for young children?
We discuss some great options for pet reptiles and give you a head start on care, handleability, and setup!
Reptiles don’t take up a lot of space, they aren’t the time commitment that dogs are, their care is simple, and they are lots of fun!
However, adopting a new family pet is a big responsibility. We want to make sure that you choose the best reptile pet for kids which are appropriate for them and aren’t too complicated, too delicate, or unsuitable for a child.
Leopard geckos are well known for being great pets for kids and it was a no-brainer choosing them as our best pick!
Not only are leos great reptiles pets, their setup and care requirements are simple and any novice pet owner can accommodate them with little effort.
In This Article
The 5 Best Reptile Pets for Kids
The 5 Best Reptile Pets for Kids
Our Best Pick: The Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos get their name from the spots (when young they actually have stripes that turn into spots as they age) that cover their bodies. They typically are less than a 12 inches in length at full size and can live 8-10 years on average!
They can live in simple glass aquariums or terrariums as long as some decorations, heating and proper humidity is maintained.
Leopard geckos will primarily eat crickets and mealworms with the occasional waxworm or dubia roach for a treat
These geckos are very tolerant of being handled and are quite hearty and healthy. One of the most exciting aspects of choosing a leopard gecko as a pet is the incredible variety of color and pattern morphs, or variations, that captive breeders have to offer.
Leopard geckos are the BEST reptile pet for kids!
Benefits of Pet Leopard Geckos
- Hardy and very tolerant of handling
- Setup and care is relatively simple
- Countless colors and patterns available
- Docile and good with children
Our Runner Up Pick: The Corn Snake
These snakes are the best pet for beginners that are looking for a pet snake. Their simple care requirements and ease of care make them extraordinary pets!
Corn snakes average around 3-5ft in length and live for 15-20 years; many corn snakes in captivity live even longer!
Most corn snakes will live on a diet of mice their entire lives. They may start out with pinkies and, as they grow, the size of mice will increase until they are eating adult mice every 7-10 days. (younger snakes will be fed every few days while they are growing)
Corn snakes make great beginner pets because they tolerate handling well; they are docile and not likely to bite. One thing to keep in mind is that corn snakes are great escape artists so it is essential to have a secure and tight fitting lid on their enclosure.
Benefits of Pet Corn Snakes
- Docile and takes well to handling
- Small size with simple care requirements
- Numerous color and pattern variations and colors
- Low-cost purchase, setup, and maintenance
Best Turtle Pick: Russian Tortoise
Russian tortoises are small, active, and easy to feed.
Their big personalities and responsiveness to their owners make them a feisty yet fun pet for beginners!
Russian tortoises are full of personality! They are feisty, eager to eat, and they recognize their owners and seem to enjoy interacting with them!
Russian tortoises are quite small compared to other popular tortoises with adult averaging between 8 and 10 inches.
One thing to consider is that Russian tortoises have long lifespans, on average about 40 years! Beginners be prepared to have a companion for most of your lifetime!
These tortoises are herbivores; meaning they eat plants. Maybe it’s better to say that they LOVE to eat plants. You’ll quickly learn that these little reptiles have big appetites!
Benefits of Pet Russian Tortoises
- Small size compared to many other tortoises
- Tend to recognize and interact with their owners
- No need for water features like popular turtles require
Best Large Reptile: Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons make one of the best reptile pets for kids!
Beardies are docile and very hardy. They would have scored much higher had it not been for their larger size!
All things considered, bearded dragons may be the best reptile pets of all! The only reason that they did not top our list is because they are somewhat on the larger side and they will require a much larger enclosure than a leopard gecko or even a corn snake does.
Bearded dragons are one of the easiest pet lizards to maintain. Once their environment is setup to their needs, they don’t pose many problems and aren’t complicated at all.
If there is any reptile that actually “enjoys” being handled, it has to be the bearded dragon! They have great temperaments and are quite docile. They are large enough and hardy enough that young children and complete beginners can handle and take care of them with ease.
Beardies are omnivores; they eat both plants and insects. A wide variety of leafy greens and the occasional cricket or worm treats are much appreciated.
Benefits of Pet Bearded Dragons
- Docile, personable, and takes well to handling
- Not picky eaters and tends to be very adaptable
- Bearded dragons live between 8 and 12 years
- Many different color morphs are available
What Makes a Good Pet Reptile?
A good pet reptile, especially one for kids, should be docile and hardy enough that it can withstand handling, have simple care requirements, and live through a few beginner mistakes.
Ideally, a child’s pet reptile should be of moderate to small size, especially if it is to be kept in their bedroom. Anything requiring large or special accommodations is best left to intermediate and advanced reptile keepers.
Many reptiles can have very specific or restrictive nutrition requirements that can be difficult for kids to manage. The best reptile pets for kids need to eat readily available foods that can be sourced with ease.
Likewise many reptiles have very specific and precise temperature, lighting, and humidity requirements. While all reptiles will require these things to some degree, it’s best to choose a reptile that doesn’t necessitate extremely strict or stringent requirements.
The reptiles chosen here don’t require such precision and are all very adaptable. Most of all a good pet reptile will be safe, entertaining, and a source of joy for kids of all ages!
Inappropriate Reptiles for Kids
There are many popular reptiles that make great pets but just aren’t the best choice for kids. It might be the size, the care requirements, or the temperament of the reptile that makes it a poor choice for young ones or beginners.
- Reticulated Pythons There immense size and feeding requirements are a detriment to even many advanced keepers
- Iguanas Large size with strict feeding and housing requirements, along with aggression make iguanas poor pets except for the most expert of keepers
- Tokay Geckos Their aggression makes them very challenging
- Chameleons Short life spans along with special care requirements, high cost, and fragility make chameleons a poor choice for beginners
- Monitors Immense size, giant housing requirements, and potential for serious injury just by the whip of their tail make monitors, although amazing reptiles, inappropriate for kids
Frequently Asked Questions
Are green anoles good pets for kids?
In our opinion anoles are not appropriate pets for beginners or for children . They are quite popular because they are very inexpensive and unfortunately because of this many view them as “disposable pets.” (NO pet should be considered disposable)
Anoles, while beautiful, are very skittish and are extremely fast. Their small size and speed make them perfect escape artists, doubly so with less experienced keepers and small children.
Do reptiles bite and are they poisonous?
All reptiles have the ability to bite as do most, if not all, pets. Our focus in this article is to highlight reptiles that are docile and have good temperaments making them great pets for beginners.
Some reptiles are poisonous, but poisonous reptiles kept in captivity by someone in their home is not common. Any reptile suggested here, for beginners especially, are not poisonous.
Will a reptile get along with my dog?
Sometimes we’ll see a social media post or a friend that we know showcase their reptile pet “posing” or “enjoying time with the family dog or cat. We use parenthesis here because we don’t believe that reptile get much enjoyment “being friends” with other animals that could potentially be predators.
Why don't you list ball pythons as good pets for kids?
Ball pythons are wonderful pets! They’re extremely popular and for good reason.
However, for the young reptile keeper, they can be somewhat troublesome being inconsistent feeders.
Many ball python keepers struggle with determining if their snake’s refusal to eat is “normal” behavior or if something is “wrong.” It takes some experience and patience that kids sometimes lack and for this reason they’re not recommended for children.
More Reptile Reviews
Ball pythons are great pets but there are some things to consider for kids.
- Manageable adult size between 3-6 ft
- Docile and not prone to biting
- Simple care and maintenance requirements
- Thousands of available color and pattern morphs
Painted turtles are great pets but they are more care intensive than many other reptiles.
- Docile in nature and smaller in size
- Good eaters that enjoy a variety of foods
- Can live for decades!
- Extremely beautiful coloration and patterning
- Hardy and easy to care for
- Variety of color morphs available
- Docile temperament for a large snake
- Boas get large and require large enclosures and feeding them can get expensive
Reptiles make amazing pets! They are relatively easy to care for, are unique and different from the traditional dog or cat, and they’re just flat out cool animals!
It’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to reptiles and why many pet owners dream of keeping one of their own.
There are a number of reptiles that make great pet candidates for beginners. Since reptiles are so unique and different, their care requirements and behavior is different too; and this is why some reptiles are considered “better” for beginners than others.
Any one of the reptiles in our “Best Reptile Pets For Kids and Small Children” post above, will be sure to get you off on the right track! Choose any of our top 5 choices and we guarantee that your reptile-keeping career will start off successfully, smoothly, and most of all a lot of fun!