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The Best Small Pets for Kids: 25 Child-Friendly Options

If you’re a pet parent, you already know how bringing an animal companion into your life can make it so much better in lots of different ways. The love, joy, and happiness that come from caring for a pet can be invaluable.

But if you’re a pet parent who also has kids, introducing them to their very own best pet pal can be a magical and crucial time in your child’s personality development.

The Benefits of Small Pets for Kids

Having a pet is both physically and emotionally positive for kids. Children with pets may develop better social skills, a stronger and healthier immune system, and even improved self-esteem and communication skills. Plus, they learn responsibility by helping to care for their pet every day.

But with so many options available, choosing the right pet for your kids can be daunting. Do you go for a cat or dog…maybe even a pot-bellied pig?

No matter how big your brood is, or how excited your kids are to have pets, it’s probably best to start them off with a less imposing pet. By gradually introducing them to the excitement and responsibility of pet care, you can make sure they’re ready for larger animals later on.

For kids at the beginning of their pet journey, the most popular pets might not be the best for them. And some that often get overlooked at the pet store could suit them completely. To help you out, I’ve put together the ultimate guide to choosing the best small pets for kids. From birds and reptiles to rodents and goldfish, there’s sure to be something for every child and family to enjoy on this list.


Birds make excellent small pets for kids due to their bright and energetic personalities, as well as their ease of care. Most pet birds have a simple diet of seeds, fruits, and vegetables, and they require a cage, water dish, and perches. They also don’t need to be taken for walks or exercised, making them low maintenance compared to more active small pets.

Additionally, many species of birds can be trained to perform simple tricks and can even learn to talk, providing a fun and interactive experience for kids. With proper care and attention, birds can be loving and entertaining companions that bring joy and laughter to the household. The five best birds for kids are:

A green budgie in a bird cage

1) Budgies

Budgies, or parakeets, are small, easy-to-care-for birds that make great pets for kids. They’re sociable animals that enjoy being handled and will often come out of their cages to explore the house. Budgies are also quite talkative and can learn a few words or phrases with proper training, which is bound to delight your kids!

2) Finches

Finches are small, colorful birds that come in many varieties and make interesting family pets. They’re social creatures that enjoy living in groups and need plenty of toys and perches to keep them entertained. Because they’re so small and relatively quiet, finches are an excellent pet choice for kids.

3) Cockatiels

Cockatiels are small parrots that have gentle personalities and make great first-time small pets for kids. They love to be handled and can learn a few tricks, such as flying onto their human’s arm or playing peek-a-boo.

4) Parrots

A parrot will bring a lot of personality and joy to any household. Parrots come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and temperaments, so be sure to research your options carefully before bringing one home. They’re smart and funny, and like many small pets, they can easily become a child’s best friend.

5) Canaries

Canaries are small, vibrant birds with beautiful singing voices. They don’t require a lot of space or attention, making them great small pets for kids. Canaries need to be kept in cages large enough for them to fly around and explore, but they should not be kept alone as they need companionship.


Fish are the ultimate low-maintenance pet, and they make good introductory pets for kids. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from brightly colored tropical freshwater fish to stately goldfish.

Fish need a tank, filter system, water treatments, food, and plants. But unlike other pets, they don’t require any hands-on care or attention. In fact, they can be left alone for days at a time while the family is away or on vacation. Fish are also fairly quiet and calming pets that can provide hours of peaceful enjoyment for kids. If you’re thinking of becoming a fish family, check out these five options:

A goldfish swimming in a tank

6) Goldfish

Goldfish are one of the most popular fish for kids due to their beauty, hardiness, and wide variety of colors and types. They’re also easy to care for and can live for up to 10 years with proper maintenance.

7) Guppies

Guppies are small, colorful fish that are great for beginner aquarists. They’re easy to care for and can live up to 5 years with proper care. Personality-wise, they’re quite active, so they’ll always keep the tank interesting.

8) Platies

Platies are small, peaceful fish that come in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. They’re easy to look after and can live up to 4 years with proper maintenance. They get along well with other fish and make an excellent addition to any tank.

9) Tetras

Tetras are a peaceful species of fish that come in many different varieties and colors. They’re very social creatures that enjoy living in groups, so be sure to get several of them when setting up your tank. Tetras are also relatively hardy fish, which makes them great for beginners.

10) Angelfish

So far we’ve looked at nine small pets your kids might love – but these fish, they could find angelic! Angelfish are large, showy fish that add a lot of character to any aquarium. They require a peaceful tank and need plenty of places to swim and hide. Because they’re quite sensitive, angelfish may not be the best choice for hands-on, hyperactive kids, but if you provide them with the right environment they can make excellent pets.


Reptiles may not be everyone’s first choice for a family pet, but some species make great companions for kids who are ready for the responsibility. These animals require a lot of patience and dedication, but they can make a fun and interesting addition for inquisitive kids to take care of. Here are five excellent reptile options:

A bearded dragon on a log

11) Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are small lizards that make gentle, inquisitive pets. They need a large tank with plenty of places to hide and bask, as well as regular cleaning and diet management. Bearded dragons typically live for 8-10 years with proper care.

12) Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are small lizards that make great beginner pets. They’re relatively easy to care for and require a tank with heat lamps, hiding places, and crickets for food. Leopard geckos can live for 10 years or more with proper care, and your kids will stay interested and engaged thanks to these fun little dudes.

13) Turtles

Turtles are ideal pets for older kids who are ready to take on the responsibility of a larger pet. They need a large tank with rocks for basking, as well as regular cleaning and diet management. Turtles can live up to 30 years with proper care, so this is a lifetime commitment for your family. And you never know – at some point they may even turn into teenage mutant ninjas! (though this is sadly not guaranteed).

14) Snakes

Snakes are great for more experienced keepers who are committed to providing the perfect environment and diet for their pets. They come in many varieties, from small garter snakes to large boas and pythons. Snakes can live up to 20 years with proper care, so be sure you’re ready for the long haul before taking on a snake as a pet.

15) Iguanas

Iguanas are large lizards that require lots of space and care, so might be a better option for older children. They need a large tank with plenty of room to roam and bask, as well as regular diet adjustments. Iguanas can live for a couple of decades with the right management, so they’re another great option for families who are looking for the best pets to grow up alongside their kids.


Rodents are an excellent low-maintenance option for kids who don’t have the time or space for a larger pet. These creatures come in all shapes and sizes, from hamsters to chinchillas – or even guinea pigs. They can live around 8 to 10 years, giving your kids a good chunk of time to bond with them. These small animals need gentle handling, but if you think a roaming rodent might be the perfect small pet for your younger kids, consider one of these feisty furballs:

A light brown hamster

16) Hamsters

Hamsters are small and easy to care for, making them perfect pets for kids. They’re active little critters that enjoy playing in their cage and exploring. And they do that super cute thing with their cheeks! What’s not to love?

17) Mice

Mice make great small pets for kids. They do best with a large cage and plenty of room to run around and hide. Consider getting them a maze to help them stay active. Just be sure to keep them away from other pets in the house. And of course, don’t forget the cheese.

18) Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are larger rodents that make excellent companions for kids. They have big personalities and love to interact with people. Guinea pigs need a large cage with plenty of bedding, as well as regular cleaning and diet management. Guinea pigs typically live around 7 or 8 years, so be prepared for a fairly long-term commitment.

19) Rats

Rats are playful and inquisitive creatures that make great small pets for kids. They’re smart and social animals that enjoy interacting with kids. That’s right, despite what you’ve seen in TV and movies, rats are good guys too!

20) Chinchillas

Chinchillas are gentle and curious creatures that will make an engaging first-time pet option for kids. They’re active little critters that love to explore their surroundings and play with each other. Chinchillas need space – avoiding overcrowding is important – and lots of bedding and dust baths. Like their cousin the guinea pig, they’re susceptible to respiratory and fur problems if their cage is poorly ventilated, so make sure their natural habitat is as closely emulated as possible.

Exotic Pets

If you’re not sold on the idea of a chinchilla or a guinea pig, exotic pets can be a fantastic option for families looking for something unique and special that can excite kids, and hold the interest of older children at the same time.

These animals may require more care and attention than traditional pet options, but the reward of having a one-of-a-kind friend for your children from a young age is worth it. Some exotic animals that your kids might enjoy include:

A cute hedgehog in a mug

21) Hedgehogs

These guys are more than just spiky guinea pigs! Hedgehogs are funky little creatures that make an interesting addition to the family. They’re nocturnal and require care levels better suited to slightly older kids, but they don’t take up much space and are fairly easy to maintain.

22) Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are small, furry creatures so tiny they’re known as a “pocket pet.” This is because you can pop them in your pocket and they’ll stay there all day! For something completely different, give these mega marsupials a go.

23) Emperor Scorpions

Emperor Scorpions aren’t as intimidating as their name suggests. These beautiful black creatures are actually quite docile, and make a top choice as a starter pet for kids because of it. Yes, all scorpions have a sting in their tail, but the emperor’s is one of the mildest.

24) Tarantulas

Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders – so obviously they’re not the best pets to go for if you have kids who suffer from arachnophobia! But, if you have a house full of small children who dream of being Spider-Man one day, tarantulas could be just the thing to spark their imagination.

25) Frogs

Like turtles, frogs are an excellent go-to small pet for kids who are interested in amphibians. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and species – from the tiny tree frog to the giant bullfrog. And they’re fascinating to watch as they hop around their tank. Plus, frogs don’t require much care or attention, just feed them and watch them go!

What’s the Best First Pet to Get My Kids?

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet that can be a great introduction to pet parenting, consider getting your kids an insect as a pet. Insects such as stick insects, centipedes, and caterpillars can be a great way to teach children the importance of taking care of an animal.

They are relatively hardy, easy to care for, and offer a unique opportunity to observe insect life cycles. Alternatively, rabbits or even hermit crabs are also great first pets for kids. These animals require more care and attention but can be a great way to teach your children how to responsibly take care of an animal.

What Animals Should I Avoid when Choosing a Pet for My Kids?

It’s always an exciting time sparking your child’s interest and getting their first pet. But what should you avoid? Wild animals should never be kept as pets, as they can spread diseases to humans and other domestic animals. Similarly, large animals such as horses or cows are not suitable for most children due to the need for a lot of space and specialized care.


The best way to decide which pet is right for your kids is to first weigh their needs with your own. Do you have the time and resources to take on a new pet? If so, there are many animals out there that could be great for children, from small insects to larger mammals like rabbits.

Embrace this opportunity to teach your kids about responsible pet parenthood, and make sure all safety measures are taken before introducing a new pet into the family. With the right guidance, your children can benefit from having a one-of-a-kind friend for years to come. Have fun!