Top 10 Best Reptiles For Kids
Choosing the best reptile for your kids can be a daunting task. Afterall we want to make sure our kids are safe and of course the pets too.
In this article, we propose a list of the 10 reptiles we consider to be the most suitable for kids. However, the fact we are referring to reptile pets suitable for children does not mean we are proposing “toys”; we are talking about creatures that deserve respect and need care.
Also, we are talking about creatures that would require a long term committment from their owners because of their extended lifespan.
With that in mind please be sure that you take lifespan into consideration as well, otherwise you (Mom or Dad) may have a new pet for a long time if your kid loses interes.
Having said all that, and, provided our list includes a tortoise and a land turtle (the major difference between the two is that most turtles live in water most of their time while tortoises dwell on land) we would like to encourage you to not acquire turtles and tortoises at pet shops, but instead, adopt one.
This will help alleviate some of the homeless pets and will also help wild environments.
If you want a baby, then please be sure to only purchase a captive bred reptile. We have two partners who only selly captive bred reptiles which we recommend: CBReptiles.com and Tortoisetown.com.
Also, if you are in the States, please note that specifically two states, North Carolina and South Dakota, ban the sale of all turtles. Indiana, Tennessee, and other states prohibit collecting wild turtles, and many states require a permit to keep them.
Be sure to check your local exotic pet laws.
Last but not least, it is needless to say that when considering reptile pets (or any kind of pet) for a child, choosing a non-dangerous species is a must.
Also, make sure to choose an animal that is docile and easy to handle (and feels comfortable being handled) and that is easy to feed (and preferably also cheap to feed and cheap to buy).
All the reptiles considered in our list fit these 3 requirements.
1. Leopard Gecko
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Adult size: 7-10 inches
Personality: Docile and easily tamed
Care: Controlled heating
They are a relatively small reptile that are docile and easy to handle. On top of that they are affordable.
Pure Leopard geckos are usually anywhere from $20 to $40, while other gecko morphs can cost well over $100. It all depends on the morph that you want really.
Habitats can be setup from about $50 to $100 and go up to whatever you are willing to spend basically.
They are easy to maintain since they don’t need to be fed every day and cean eat cheap feeder crickets which can cost about $2 per week or so.
Water wise they are fine with just a simple water bowl.
They also tend to be less jumpy than other species of gecko.
On the downside (depending how you look at it, they are nocturnal. If you want a pet that is active during the day, then a leopard gecko is not the one for you.
You also need to make sure not to scare them, or to pick them up by the tail. When leopard geckos get scared they will drop their tail as a defense. It will eventually grow back again, but will not be as nice as the original tail.
Learn more by checking out our Leopard Gecko Caresheet.
2. Bearded Dragon Lizard
- Lifespan: 8-12 years
- Adult size: 14-24 inches
- Personality: Laid-back and docile, but can sometimes be finicky eaters
- Care: Controlled heating & UVB light
They tend to be incredibly social, easy to handle, and will happily ride on your shoulders.
They generally enjoy coming out of their tanks for daily engagement. Unlike the leopard gecko, they are awake during daytime hours.
They are also affordable. Young bearded dragons can cost between $30-$60 while larger beardies (more mature) can cost up to $100. Generally breeders will be cheaper than buying at a local store.
Despite the initial cost of purchasing the tanks and setting everything up (from $50 to $300), they are quite cost effective.
You’ll need to start small and then transition to a bigger tank as babies grow. Once they are an adult/full-grown, this initial investment will last the rest of their lifetime.
There is only the exception of needing to occasionally replace basking bulbs. You can use cheap flourescent and UVB bulbs ($20-$50).
Maintenance wise they can costly anywhere from $25 to $60 per month for food. This will include their insects, veggies, calcium powder, and vitamins).
They can get big (up to 24 inches long) with most averaging around 18 inches. If you prefer smaller reptiles, the bearded dragon is probably not ideal for you.
Additionally they also can suffer from health concerns like impaction and Metabolic Bone Disease very easily if you feed them the wrong food, don’t offer supplements, or their lighting and temps aren’t accurate (they need very specific temperature and lighting conditions).
Learn more by checking out our Bearded Dragon Caresheet.
3. Corn Snake
- Lifespan:15-20 years
- Adult size: 2.5-5 feet
- Personality: mild temperament
- Care: controlled heating
These guys are easy to care for and affordable. Basic morphs typically cost between $20-$50 dollars. There are of course plenty of other corn snake morphs available which can be explored once your kid gets more experience.
On top of that, despite their size, adult Corn Snakes can function just fine in as little as a 30-gallon tank, although 40 gallons would be preferred.
Speaking of their habitat, it is very easy to set up. Other than a good escape-proof tank you just need substrate, a reliable heat source, a water dish, a hide, some décor, and a source of UV light (that even if it isn’t entirely necessary, it does wonders for their health).
Lastly they are easy to maintain. Individual adults only require feeding about once a week, while babies should be fed several times.
Corn Snakes are prone to issues like infections in the mouth and upper respiratory infections.
They also will bite when they are young, though it isn’t anything to be concerned about. It could just be a little frightening possibly for your child.
Learn more by checking out our Corn Snake Caresheet.
4. Russian Tortoise
Lifespan: 40-50 years
Adult size: 8 to 10 inches
Personality: more resistant to handling when adults
Care: controlled heating and UVB light
These guys stay relatively small, have low habitat maintenance requirements and are more interactive than other tortoise species.
They are also relatively hardy and can survive extreme heat and even lows in down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
They live a long time and require a looong term commitment, as they can live for up to 50 years!!!
They are also prone to respiratory infections, too much moisture can prove dangerous.
Setting them up can get a bit more expensive. They will need a tortoise house or other enclosure suitable to their size which can cost anywhere between $250 to as much as $1,000.
Maintenance costs will be around $50–$100 per month in food and electricicity, depending on certain factors.
Learn more by checking out this Russian Tortoise Caresheet.
5. Box Turtle
Lifespan: 40-50 years
Adult size: 4-28 inches
Personality: Docile and generally get along with turtles of the same species
Care: Box turtles require an outdoor enclosure (although they can have indoor enclosures when necessary) and a varied diet. Without these, a turtle’s growth can be stunted and its immune system weakened. Also, a UVB lamp and controlled heating.
Box turtles are affordable ranging from $25-$50.
Three-toed box turtles are often considered the best one to keep as pets since they are hardy and seem to suffer less from being moved into a new environment. However, other species of box turtles get stressed when moved into new surroundings
Most box turtles are easily stressed by over-handling and require more care than is generally thought.
Box turtles can be injured by dogs and cats, so special care must be taken to protect them from household pets and other predators if housed outdoors.
We recommended to only buy captive-bred box turtles (in areas where this is allowed) to reduce the pressure put on the wild populations.
A 3-year study in Texas indicated that over 7,000 box turtles were taken from the wild for commercial trade.
A similar study in Louisiana found that in 41 months, nearly 30,000 box turtles were taken from the wild for resale, many for export to Europe.
Learn more by checking out this Eastern Box Caresheet.
6. Argentine Tegus
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Adult size: adult males can reach 3 ft (92 cm) in length at maturity. They may continue to grow to lengths of 4.0–4.5 ft (120–140 cm). The females may grow up to 3 ft in length, from nose to tail.
Personality: docile and tolerant for regular handling
Care: refer to our Argentine Tegu Caresheet
This highly intelligent lizard is commonly known for seeking out human affection a lot like a dog or cat.
They are also easy to handle since they have a calm, composed, and gentle character. However, sudden movements or direct eye contact should be avoided.
They make good pets, as they tend to become acclimated to their owners and are generally quite docile as adults.
In general they are easy to tame and are have a high intelligence too.
They are a bit higher in price which can vary depending on the seller, but normally the cost of a Tegu Lizard is around $200.
If they are not cared for, they can become very aggressive.
In Georgia it is considered an invasive species. For more information check https://georgiawildlife.com/tegus
7. Blue Tongue Skink
There are 10 different subspecies of Skink, all of which sport a berry-blue tongue. The care between different subspecies will vary slightly, so it is important to know which one you have.
Lifespan: 10-20 years (up to 30 years in rare instances!)
Adult size: 14-24 inches
Personality: Docile and tolerant of regular handling
Care: Controlled heating & UVB light
This is a good pet lizard for beginners because the skink has a great disposition and good personality.
With their large body and stubby legs, and with regular handling they will remain docile and easy to handle.
They are also awake during the day and at night, so you can enjoy the company of your blue-tongued skink no matter what your schedule is.
They are the most expensive in our list: northern blue-tongued skinks range in price from $150 for babies to $250 for adults. High-colored or rarer forms may cost more. Rare blue-tongued skinks such as Centralian and shingle banks may cost between $1,500 and $5,000 each.
Although they may get on fine with humans, it’s advisable to keep both juvenile and adult skinks in separate enclosures.
It may be possible to keep two females or a male and a female together with close monitoring. If they fight they should be placed in separate cages. Males shouldn’t ever be kept together.
Problems such as mouth rot, parasites, dehydration, and uncomfortably long nails can happen, amongst others.
Your best bet at avoiding these problems, as always, is to keep your skink’s habitat and diet on point.
Learn more by checking out this Blue Tongue Skink Caresheet.
8. Green Iguanas
Lifespan: about 20 years
Adult size: 6 feet length including their tail
Personality: handleable and easily tamed
Care: a large cage with various heights of shelving and branches for climbing, a UV light for about 12 hours per day, and temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Special requirements: calcium is needed to help green iguanas grow, have strong bones and avoid metabolic bone disease. Vitamin D3 is needed to metabolize the calcium. Supplemental powders are available that can be dusted on the food at every other feeding.
They are very affordable ranging from $20 to $50 and the green iguana tolerates being handled quite well.
They have special enclosure and feeding requirements, so this one may need some co caring from a parent.
Many of them will try to escape their enclosures and even your home.
They are also a nocturnal species; if you want a pet that is active during the day, then a green iguana is not one of them.
They get big. They can easily grow to five or six feet with the proper environment!
They also might become aggressive if not regularly handled, and have a strong self-defense instinct and will bite, scratch, and whip their tails if they feel threatened.
Check your local laws to confirm the legality of owning a pet iguana in your area.
While we put this on the list, it is definitely one that should be kept for older kids with experience or one that a parent will be involved in the care more heavily.
9. Crested Gecko
Lifespan: 10-20 years
Adult size: 5-8 inches
Personality: handleable and easily tamed
Care: no special lighting or heating, do like foliage to climb, very sensitive to high temperatures. Misting will become a part of the daily care routine because these geckos rely on humidity to smell their food and drink off of leaves and terrarium walls.
Crested Geckos are affordable ($35-$60) and widely available as pets for purchase or adoption.
Special Morphs might cost a bit more, but in general, crested geckos are not expensive to buy and free to adopt.
They are quite hardy and don’t suffer from too many problems if kept correctlt.
Since they are small and do not need much space – a small 15-20 gallon tank for a single adult crested gecko is sufficient.
They don’t require specialized reptile UVB lighting. Also, if the room temperature is optimal, heating the tank may not needed.
You can find them in a range of colors and patterns, which makes them fun to look at.
Maintenance wise they only need to be fed 2-3 times weekly and have simple feeding requirements.
While hatchling, baby or juvenile crested geckos should not be kept together, adults can be kept together successfully. One thing there though is you should not house males together.
The best ratio is 1 male and 1-2 females or a few females together.
Crested geckos are quite easy to breed. They start showing breeding interest at the age of 18-24 months, depending on the growth rate.
One downside is that they are nocturnal, so again if you want a pet to watch during the day, this is not the one.
Also, some crested geckos can become aggressive.
Additionally they are sensitive to heat and other factors, and can easily drop their tails. The big thing here is if they drop their tail, unlike the leopard gecko, it won’t grow back.
You can check out our Crested Gecko Care Sheet for more, and can learn more about the difference between the crested gecko and leopard gecko here.
10. Mexican Black King Snake
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Adult size: 3-5 feet
Personality: docile and easily tamed
Care: controlled heating
These snakes hardy, docile, and low maintenance. They are are among the easiest snakes to keep as pets abd are usually not prone to stress.
As adults, most specimens are very easy to handle. However, hatchlings are nervous and flighty and may defecate when feeling threatened.
They do however have voracious appetites. They are a also a bit overpriced. Hatchlings can be obtained from $150. Some sellers go well above that.
One thing which differentiates the Mexican black kingsnake from other kingsnakes is their speed. These snakes move very quickly as hatchlings. Watch them closely, especially when placing them on the floor.
Check out the Mexican Black Kingsnake Caresheet for more.
Top 5 Reptiles for Kids Video
Reptiles have a long lifespan, which means a huge commitment to a child. However, too many kids get “bored” of their pets. So, before buying a reptile as a pet parents should decide if they are willing to care for them regardless if their children don’t.
Another consideration is that all reptiles must be acquired from a legitimate source.
Lastly, while we didn’t put any water turtles on here, there are some good options like Map, Musk and Mud Turtles. You can check out more turtle species here.