The Best Pets for Small Children
by John Richards
Ant farms should, in my humble opinion, be mandatory for all small kids. What am I talking about? Well, research shows that children who’ve had the experience of being responsible for a pet grow up to be more responsible adults too. Hardly surprising—but think about it. If we had more responsible parents out there, there would be fewer kids out on the streets causing all sorts of trouble after dark. OK, I know I’m on my soap box but this stuff is important. Anyway, this article quickly runs through the main Orders (or groups) of insects to determine which are the most suitable for children to have as pets.
The main insect pet groups look like this:
Ants (Order Hymenoptera)
Ants make great pets. You can buy an ant farm for under $20.Very little maintenance is required. They eat virtually nothing yet are active all the time and perform remarkable feats of tunneling. They are great to watch.
Stick insects (Order Phasmidae)
Very interesting when newly hatched, they are active and fun to watch. As they grow, they become much less active and look like, well, sticks. Children’s interest is likely to wane as the insects become more and more static. Require fresh vegetation on a regular basis.
Crickets (Order Orthoptera)
Crickets can make very good pets. The many different species vary considerably in their appearance and show quite a bit of sexual dimorphism (that is, the males and females look different).They can be quite active, particularly at warmer temperatures and some will sing, given the right encouragement. Require fresh vegetation on a regular basis.
Bees (Order Hymenoptera)
Definitely not for children. Bees are fascinating to keep, and can earn you a little money, but require a good deal of equipment, and care.
Cockroaches (Order Blattodea)
Some parent might blench at the thought of cockroaches in the house but provided they are properly caged, then they are the same as any other insect. Very active, may show cannibalistic tendencies if food is short, and which some children might find upsetting. Will eat pretty much anything. Hissing cockroaches are very impressive insects.
Millipedes (Order Myriapoda)
Interesting to watch but can spend long periods in an inactive coil, which is pretty boring for children. Prefer warmer temperatures. Eat detritus. Giant millipedes can be up to twelve inches long and as thick as your finger, so you will need a large tank or terrarium.
As you can see, there are many ways to go when choosing an insect pet. Although I find all insects interesting, I think, for children, ants in an ant farm is likely to offer the best chance of success. The ant farms themselves are cheap, and there are many types to choose from. The ants are usually active and will capture a child’s interest and running costs are virtually nil.
Take a look at this ant farm site for lots of ideas.