Kids & Reptiles

Kids and reptiles! Can they mix and should they mix?

by Kerrie Alexander

In my opinion yes and sometimes no. In this article I will express some ideas and tips on how to keep the harmony with our kids and reptiles, and also perhaps when we should draw the line.

In my experience with demonstrating reptiles to children I have found 80% are keen to touch and are waiting with lots of questions. This is, of course a fantastic learning experience, but like most things children need some guidance. They need to be shown how to treat and hold the animals in order to understand how these little creatures work.

Usually the children are set some basic rules. These rules are easy for them to understand and are always said in a positive way.

Kids and Reptiles: Examples of rules for children when handling reptiles are as follows:

* Only touch the back, tail or tummy, as they do not like to be touched on the face. (If asked why? we simply ask if they liked being touched all over the face by a stranger, no is usually the answer.) Facing the animal with its tail towards people is the best way to solve this.

* Make sure you support the animals’ legs when holding and do not squeeze, just let them sit or slide through your hands.

* Never poke the animal or do anything that you yourself wouldn’t like.

* Make sure you wash your hands after touching the reptiles.

There is always the other 20% of children who don’t feel comfortable holding or touching the animals - they prefer to just look and this is fine.These children can still learn a lot and sometimes they just need a bit more time to watch you hold the animal and understand them before they feel comfortable. I actually prefer this as I know that they will respect the animal and have some understanding of it. This is better than the children diving in and maybe hurting the animal because they have not listened.

There are times when lines are drawn and strict rules need to be in place. Examples of this include instances when venomous snakes or larger, more dangerous animals such as goannas are being shown. Of course when demonstrating venomous snakes and some larger goannas, the animals should only be touched by or come close to the demonstrator.

When keeping venomous snakes privately they should always be housed in a locked enclosure, off the ground and out of the child’s reach. One effective system used by many keepers to clearly identify potentially dangerous animals is the colour system. A sticker or coloured piece of paper is placed on every enclosure that contains an animal. Dangerous animals are identified by a red sticker, while harmless animals have blue or green. Red, even to the smallest child is associated with hot, stop, dangerous etc and therefore clearly identifies the animals children should never try to touch. Blue or green are associated with calming, go, cold etc. and children can therefore recognize harmless animals.

My daughter, Chloe, 5yrs, has shown a fantastic interest and respect for reptiles. We have been lucky that she keeps a safe distance and obeys our rules when dealing with venomous snakes and their removal. Such a thing cannot be expected by every child and each needs to be assessed individually if they are to come close to these animals. I do not promote or encourage venomous snakes and children to mix.

Reptiles can be a fun and exciting experience for children and encourage responsibility along with a greater understanding of our native animals and how they live.

Kids and Reptiles: The best first reptiles or invertebrates for children are:

  • Blue tongue lizards
  • Shingle back Skinks
  • Bearded dragons
  • Long neck Turtles
  • Children’s Python or equivalent
  • Green Tree Frogs
  • Stick insects

These animals can be obtained through your local breeder or pet store. No animal should be taken from the wild.

When there's knowledge and patience, kids and reptiles can get along just fine.

Why Turtles are More Fun and Easy to Pet


Pet Turtles are one of the many preferences of children nowadays.

Pet turtles don't cause noises (barking), allergies (feline furs), possible virus encounter (birds), and most of all they don't bite when annoyed (snakes and dogs). Turtles aren't as complicated to care for as compared to dogs or cats (purchasing either means several costly procedures should take place to ensure the pet's overall bodily security; shots, operations, etc). As though it wasn't enough, you have to provide crates, toys, dog houses, and grooming products.

Pet Turtles: Pet Comparison

Many turtles perish in captivity because they aren't treated and given attention of the same level as to their fur-covered counterparts. It's a common thought that turtles surpasses all animals with longevity, and if they are properly cared for, these animals can live for many decades. This will require pet turtles owner to pay attention to the turtle's food, living situation, and necessary treatments.

Before you jump onto the nearest pet store, the first thing you need to know is what kind of turtle is perfect for you (turtles, like many pets, have many varieties). This is crucial because different species require different environments and diets.

Vacation is inevitable, and so plan to have pet turtles looked when you go on vacation (just as you would your precious cats and dogs). Turtles will need food and fresh water every day.

Pet Turtles: Considerations

When you purchase a turtle, be realistic about its eventual size and longevity. Because some turtles grows to a size that makes them hard to keep, taking care of a large turtle is a bit of a challenge; they will require more food, more water, and more space (and more work for you).

As you already know, some turtle species could outlive humans (you). Therefore be prepared to accept them as a long term part of the family. Do not buy just for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon or because your friend's friends have it, or if you feel that you cannot make a commitment to the poor little creature.

In addition, if you've got a turtle and feel you cannot commit 'properly' anymore, do NOT simply let it go, for the turtle has become dependent upon you for food, water, and shelter. Take the pet to the vet, a shelter, a zoo or call a local turtle rescue group.

Pet Turtles