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Choosing the Best Lizards for Kids

Dogs and cats are great, but if you’ve got a budding paleontologist on your hands, there’s no cooler pet than a descendant of the dinosaurs! But what are the best lizards for kids?

There are thousands of species of lizards and each one has it’s own intricacies and complexities. Choosing the right one as a pet can be difficult for anyone, let alone children.

But there are some lizards that make great pets for reptile lovers of all ages. The key is knowing what you’re getting into.

First and foremost, do your research! For as many lizard species as there are, there’s almost as many individual dietary needs. It is important to research the species of reptile you intend to purchase so that you can properly meet its needs.

As with any pet, you have to be sure your children are ready for a pet, and you must teach them how to properly care for and handle the new member of the family. This is especially true when it comes to lizards.

But the best lizards for kids are easy to maintain and handle. Most of the feeding, watering, and cage cleaning can be the child’s responsibility, and many terrariums are easy to set up and care for. However, the enclosure should have a child-proof locking mechanism to keep little fingers out.

All lizards can excrete Salmonella and therefore routine personal hygiene and the supervision of all child-lizard interactions are important. And, of course, it is best that an adult check on the lizard routinely to assure that the temperature of his environment is proper and nutritional and fresh water needs are being met.

If you’re looking for the best lizards for kids, check these three out. They’re sure to delight your children — and you as well!

Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are one of the best lizards for kids. They are calm and non-aggressive by nature and actually don’t mind being held and petted (within reason, of course). Just be sure you provide a properly-sized habitat so he can grow normally. A bearded dragon can easily reach two-feet in length by the age of one or two, with females generally being a bit smaller than males.

Bearded dragons have a readily available diet — they eat most vegetables and some insects, such as crickets or mealworms. Never give them citrus (too acidic), spinach (too high in calcium), or avocados (they can be toxic), but endive, bok choy, mustard greens, carrots, acorn or butternut squash, peeled cucumbers, and bell peppers are great choices. When feeding a bearded dragon insects, make sure they’re not too big, but be certain you have enough of them (a baby bearded dragon can eat 20-40 small crickets in a day, when growing!). As your bearded dragon grows, you can back off somewhat on the insect portion of the diet.

Being native to the desert, a bearded dragon should be kept in an environment of 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, there should be a warm side to the environment, as well as a cooler side, so he can choose where he is most comfortable at any given part of the day. A basking light will provide amble warmth for your dragon. Bearded dragons also require a full-spectrum UV light for 12-14 hours per day as a replacement for sunlight. Keep a thermometer in the tank to assure that proper temperatures are met.

While it isn’t necessary to take a bearded dragon for a walk, with specifically-designed reptile harnesses, you can! This is another reason it is one of the best lizards for kids. However, you have to train your bearded dragon to do so, and you must start the training at a fairly young age.

Green Iguanas

Green iguanas are another one of the best lizards for kids. They’ll eat other items when they are offered, but green iguanas should be maintained on a diet of about 95 percent healthy greens and vegetables and 5 percent fruits. Readily-available greens like collards, mustard greens, dandelions, kale, and romaine are all good, as are shredded carrots, green beans, peas, squash, and peppers. When giving fruit, stick to bananas, apples, melons, and strawberries. All food should be chopped into proper sizes for easy palatability. As a herbivore, iguanas do not need, nor like insects. Supplementation of calcium and vitamin D-3 a few times a week, will help assure proper requirements.

Green iguanas should be housed in a large cage with various heights of shelving and branches for him to climb. They should be provided a UV light for about 12 hours per day. They will prefer a temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but there can be warmer areas within the environment as well.

One of the biggest considerations in obtaining a green iguana is the size they can become — they can easily grow to five or six feet with the proper environment! And while they’re docile, they’re not really great for holding, or taking for a walk, for that matter. But they can climb agilely, swim admirably, run swiftly, and leap when necessary, so they’re certainly fun to watch and observe, making them one of the best lizards for kids.

Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are probably the easiest lizard to keep and are one of the best lizards for kids. They require basic care and are amenable to handling – but they’re prone to bouts of speed, so watch for runaways. Bites are rare and usually preceded by squeaky vocalizations as a warning. They make interesting vivarium subjects, especially if subdued lighting is used to encourage their activities.

Leopard geckos dine on insects, with larger individuals also consuming pinkie mice. They are not too particular about their diet, and will eat most anything that wiggles. Crickets should be fed in moderation, along with meal or wax worms. In general, it is best to feed your leopard gecko only what he can consume within 15 or 20 minutes a day.

Leopard geckos are nocturnal. You won’t see them out much during the day. They like to have a log, or other prefab shelter to crawl into or under. They are very happy to live in an aquarium with a sand substrate on the bottom, which is easy to clean. A heating pad under the tank works well to provide a warm environment, but the pad should only be placed under half of the tank. As they are nocturnal, geckos do not require UV lighting, but a thermometer is again recommended to check the temperature.