I Have a Five Year Old in Love with "Creatures"! Suggestions??

Updated on October 29, 2009
J.K. asks from Manhattan Beach, CA
15 answers

My soon to be five year old wants some "creatures" for his birthday... turtles, hermit crabs, lizards, etc. We have a Betta fish and a Goldfish and he has been through ants, snails, ladybugs, butterflies, tadpoles. etc. He loves it! We are wondering if anyone had any recommendations for something that he can look after and enjoy for months / years to come. Would an aquarium be too hard to maintain? I heard lizards you have to clean the cage 2x daily..... open to ideas!

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answers from San Francisco on

I know this may sound weird, but my son has three pet worms. We dug them out of the compost bin and he actually named them. All you do is put them in an open top container with a lot of dirt, drop diced veggies / peelings / bread crusts....etc on top, and they will do fine. We put water in the container about once a week to keep moist.
He digs them out occasionally, you know, to "play with them" but for the most part, they are low maintenance. The best part is that you don't have to clean the cage!

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answers from Honolulu on

I wouldn't get an aquarium unless "you" or Hubby have no problem with cleaning it or maintaining it.
We used to have a 20 gallon...and well, it began to be a pain to take care of. Its low-maintenance in a sense...but you still have to buy things for it regularly and yes, clean it.
.... so then, what we got, was a cute little table-top sized aquarium... that is only like 14" high 1-2 gallon kind of thing, and therefore, MUCH easier to take care of. And you just get low maintenance fish to put in it.

Reptiles/turtles/lizards/snails/frogs etc., have Salmonella. There was an article in the newspaper recently, about 2 sisters ending up in the hospital because they were "swimming" with their pet turtles in the tub. And one of the girls got pretty sick. Also, many of these creatures need live food... at least mine did (I've had lizards/turtles/frogs). So that is another thing to consider- what kind of food do you have to get for the "pet". Daily. I used to catch the live-food for my critters myself, every weekend.

If you want to have a pet that can be kept "for months/years to come"... then, what about something with fur? But, these are major commitments too...ie: housing/food/vet bills/check-ups/companionship/cleaning of poop & pee/training/etc. So see how up to it you/Hubby are... because at 5 years old, the parents will ultimately be the ones' doing the major "care-taking" of the pet. Everyday.

Or, what you can do is... Build or buy a large SCREENED-In cage. Like say.... 3-4' by 3-4 feet or larger. THEN, you can put in potted plants/dirt etc. and make it like a "real" habitat... and the critters in it will last longer. My friend did that for her kids, and its REALLY cool and fun. And you can put an assortment of critters in there.

good luck,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

we've always had creatures at our house. try a fire bellied toad. they are beautiful and easy to maintain. terrarium, gravel at the bottom poured unevenly, high end is dry, low end pour water. put a filter in there and it stays clean. give them a little cave to hide in. they like crickets or mini meal worms (put them in a dish so they don't crawl away) which you don't have to touch just scoop them in or dump them. the kids love it!!! their skin is poisonous so make sure to have child wash hands - it's not really too toxic just makes it even cooler for him.

p.s. white's dumpy tree frogs are also awesome. they like dry land. and a bowl of water to sit in. mist them a few times a day. that's it. also cute and jumpy.

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answers from Los Angeles on

What about stick insects- they are really easy to look after- in a big jar with a bit of foilage- although i don't remember they lived so long.

Be careful with lizards if you have or will have another baby- they can carry certain bacteria which is potentially harmful for babies I have heard.

Aquariums are always great- but not sure of workload.



answers from Los Angeles on

I saw in Brookstone that they're selling this cool tanks with those colorful frogs (red and yellow) and it also comes with a snail inside to clean the tank. So apparently you have to clean the tank only twice a year. It is eco-friendly or something like that. Good luck with jumping frogs



answers from Los Angeles on

My son is 7 and we've had a fish tank in his room for about 2 years now. However, my husband does all the work on keeping it clean and we constantly have to remind my son to feed the fish. We usually wind up doing it. Turtles and lizards carry salmonella so I don't know if they make good pets for a 5 year old. My sister in law did have rats as pets and loved them.

What about getting a puppy or kitten? You son can really help with feeding and brushing and this will be a pet that lasts for years (and maybe get his mind off of creatures).

Good luck!



answers from San Diego on

Is your son responsible enough to take care of a pet at age 5? I have a 4.5 yo son and a 2.5 yo daughter. I know for sure my son is not yet ready for that kind of responsibility. We have a dog that hubby takes care of and the kids "help".

Maybe instead of getting him a pet to care for (which really means that you and hubby will be taking care of it), you can buy annual passes to the Zoo/Wild Animal Park. Then you can take your son to see all kinds of creatures and animals whenever he wants to go and you don't have to clean up the mess :).

If you buy the annual pass for the San Diego Zoo, you also get admission to the Wild Animal Park. I think for 2 adults and one child it cost us about $120 a year. My kids LOVE going to the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park.



answers from Los Angeles on

Not sure where you live but have you checked out Prehistoric Pets in Fountain Valley they have all kinds of reptile's and creatures. Tadpole would be cool, to see it grow and transform.

Have fun~



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J. :)

And so it begins ... I remember when my son would catch LOADS of lizards, bring them into the house in his plastic halloween trick-or-treat pumpkin .. play with them for a little while, then forget about them all togther .. lucky me, I'd have to chase them down and put them back outside.

Now, at 13, he has a ball python, a leopard gecko, a bearder dragon and 2 turles that live in a pond outside.

Reptiles DO require care, probably not cleaning twice a day, but they need pretty well maintained living conditions (you'll hvae to help there) and they have to be fed (crickets, meal worms, mice ..) I didn't think my son was ready for a "full time pet" so we waited until he was 9-10. The gecko was first.

Aquariums are very easy to maintain after the initial set-up, that may be a better choice for you now? And there are some very cool, small critters you can add to the tank (shrimps, teeny frogs, eels) I don't know much about hermit crabs except that sitting water (their habitat) can get pretty stinky :)

hope some of that helps?



answers from Los Angeles on

Does a rat qualify? We had a pair of them for 3 years and they were awesome pets! Smart, cheap, social, easy to care for. If you get them young and socialize with them they do not bite like other rodents. They have a longer life expectancy than a mouse or hamster too, If you want something really "creature-y" what about a naked rat? Yes they are a creepy sight all bald and beady eyed with the long tail and all, but they have the same fun personalities as their hairy cousins. Clean the cage once a week, feed them rat kibble and some occasional green veggies and they'll be happy and healthy. My husband was opposed to rodents but they grew on him. He cried when they died.

Good luck!



answers from San Diego on

Hi J.,
My son loves little animals as well. He has tetra fish in his room, the tank is sparkling clean still and its been a year. Tetra are much cleaner than goldfish. We also bought him a mouse wich he gets tons of joy out of. We clean the cage every couple days but shes real easy to take care of. He loves holding her and feeding her. Good luck with your creatures!



answers from San Diego on

Hi J.,

I inherited a russian tortoise a year ago. We keep him in a dry aquarium. I have never been a reptile person but I've"bonded" with this little guy! He's about the size of a large grapefruit and requires very little maintenance although we like to take him out to walk around and get sun in the backyard. We keep bedding from petco in the bottom of aquarium and a full dish of water. I give him lettuce that he loves, and other greens.

He is an easy keeper, quite hearty and really fun and interesting.



answers from Las Vegas on

Oh, J.!

Does your little guy send me back! I have 4 guys, and they have all loved critters! We currently have turtles, birds, and guppies/fish. These are among the easiest to care for. The turtles have been an unexpected joy! We purchased Red Eared Sliders as young, little creatures. They sang to us! Now they watch tv with us from inside their tank. They, and our little finches, are a delight for all of us, adults and children.

BTW, hermit crabs are fun, you can take them out and play with them, but they can be difficult to care for.

Good luck, I see a future of critters in your life! Have fun with them!




answers from Los Angeles on

We have had bad luck with hermit crabs and small turtles. Aquariums (which is pretty much the type of environment both of them need, although the hermit crabs live in one filled with sand and shells, need certain things. Turtles have to have water that is constantly kept filtered and clean. The hermit crabs need a heated rock. Gradually, they all died. I do know people who have raised the red striped turtles successfully, but again, with well cared-for aquariums. And, if they are successful they can grow pretty large.

Our children, and our grandchildren, have always had cats. The great thing about cats is, if you have an indoor-outdoor cat, it will pretty much take csre of itself, as long as you have a dish with food and water, and a litter box somewhere inside like in a garage. If you get a kitten, although the tiniest ones are cutest, insist on it staying with its mother for at least 8 weeks. Older kittens and young cats can be quite fun, because they will chase after little balls, play with yarn and string, etc, but if they haven't been taken too young and therefore are neurotic, they can also be very loving pets who purr and will sit on your lap and even give you "kisses." Over 65 years of cat ownership, cats have been great pets, with few complications, and we have had many who lived to be quite old, although you need to bring them in at night if you have coyotes around.

We also have a bunny right now, and they can be litter box trained as well. They are messier than cats, however, can't go outside on their own, of course, and you need to clean out their litter more often and give them a bigger variety of foods. Also, of course, they're not going to chase after a ball. However, if you find one with the right temperament, they can be cuddly as well. Again, be sure they are large enough to leave their mother.

After reading other answers, I remember one real chore for one of the critters we had was constantly having to go to the pet store to buy some live insects for it -- crickets, I think. Even though there is some expense to getting a cat neutered, I'll take one any day, and children do love them. And I do suggest getting one from a shelter or a rescue place.



answers from Los Angeles on

Turtles are not a good idea, esp. at this age. There is a huge salmonella issue with turtles and you have to disinfect everything the turtle touches. Plus the kids can get sick from holding them if they don't wash up really well. I think of rats and hampsters as possibly being better but don't know about cleaning their cages. In 5th our class had a gueinea pig. That was really cool. I got to be the "zoo keeper" for one of the extended holiday's. If I remeber corretly We cleaned the cage once a week or every other week. Of course when we saw #2 it would get cleaned out with a scoop right away.

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