Many current adults had pet reptiles as kids that their parents helped them take care of, it’s no surprise that they might want to share a similar bonding experience with their own children. I must warn you, this article is going to be more of an opinion piece, but definitely mixed in is some real world experience. In the following article I’m going to tell you what I think the best pet reptile for kids is, having just purchased my 11 year old daughter her first pet reptile.
Best pet reptiles for kids: corn snake or bearded dragon
My opinion is that a corn snake makes the best pet reptile for kids. I say this as someone who has owned leopard geckos, bearded dragons, pythons, and boa constrictors. Because a pet for your child will likely be cared for by yourself at least part of the time, you also need to consider what pet reptile is going to be best for your preferred lifestyle as the parent. You may not have the time for a new pet that requires gobs of attention and supervision from the owner.
With that said, let’s look at the 2 species that we’re showcasing in this article: the corn snake and the bearded dragon.
1. Corn snake: winner
Scientific name: Pantherophis guttatus
Adult size: 2-5 feet
Lifespan: 20 years
Care difficulty: Easy
Corn snakes are in the rat snake family and are native to the United States. They are also common in the pet trade. Compared to many types of pythons and boas, they stay relatively small in size even as adults. They’re widely known as entry-level pet reptiles and also one of the most common pet snakes overall.
Pros: corn snakes vs other snakes
- Corn snakes don’t get as large and heavy bodied as pythons
- They are known for being docile and are good being handled
- Corn snakes are hardy and native to many areas of the U.S.
- No heating lamp is required, but can be used if needed
- They don’t present problems when feeding
- There are over 800 morphs of corn snakes to choose from
- Corn snakes are inexpensive compared to more exotic species
Pros: corn snakes vs bearded dragon
- A corn snake setup is easier and cheaper
- A baby corn snake only needs to be fed 1-2 times per week
- Adult corn snakes feed once every 1-2 weeks
- You can go out of town for a weekend and leave a corn snake
- Corn snakes are basically easier to care for vs a beardie
2. Bearded dragon: runner-up
Adult size: 16 – 24 inches
Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
Care difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Bearded dragons are beloved among pet reptile owners and even though they came in as the runner-up in this particular article, they are far from inferior to corn snakes. I believe they have more personality and probably make better for many types of people. Just remember, for this article we are talking about the best pet reptiles for kids.
Reasons why I liked it over other lizards
- Bearded dragons are known to bond with their owners with proper handling
- Bearded dragons do well with socialization
- You can even walk them on a leash!
- Compared to other lizards, bearded dragons are lower maintenance
- There is a wealth of information online about bearded dragon care
- They are beautiful reptiles that are fun to watch and take care of
Reasons why it ultimately didn’t win
- I wouldn’t trust a young child to care for a bearded dragon on their own, and busy adults we don’t always have time to do it for them
- A bearded is just too much pet for a young child, be prepared for it to be YOUR pet
- Bearded dragons do grow rather large and would eventually require a large enclosure
In my opinion, if you have a young child and are looking to get them started in reptile ownership, then a corn snake is a great way to go. For the reasons mentioned above, corn snakes make better pets for first-timers. Especially first-timers that are children and haven’t even fully learned how to take care of themselves yet.
If you are committed to helping your child take care of the new pet and have the time to do so, then a bearded dragon would also make a fine pet for a child. However if you want a pet reptile that is a bit more low maintenance that you as the parent won’t have to constantly worry about, then I’d opt for the corn snake like I did.
When I refer to child in this article I am referring to children age 10-13. My daughter just got her corn snake at age 11 so she falls into this age range. If I end up doing most of the work it won’t be the end of the world. A teenager age 14-17 would do better with a bearded dragon in my opinion.