Last updated on May 10th, 2021 at 12:45 pm
I don’t know of any kids who don’t, at some point, want a pet. The usual requests are dogs and cats. Occasionally there will be the odd request for hamsters, rabbits, or guinea pigs, too. But there’s another less common choice that I think should be considered—the bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons make great pets for kids. There are a few misconceptions that should be cleared up, but overall they are a fantastic choice. They’re docile, easy to care for, and enjoy human contact. In short, they are a wonderful first pet for children!
Bearded dragons and bacteria
Let’s start by dispelling a rampant myth that keeps parents from choosing reptiles as pets for their children…
The myth that owning a reptile will make your kids sick with a bacterial or parasitic infection is completely false.
Reptiles can carry Salmonella and can often have pinworms. These are commonly found in their feces. When parents hear this, they sometimes panic and forbid reptiles from their homes. This is unwarranted!
Children should not be allowed to put reptiles or their feces in their mouths. Children should also not be allowed to put dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, or guinea pigs in their mouths either. The same goes for their poop.
In other words, it’s unhealthy for your child to ingest the feces of ANY animal. I know that should be obvious, but I think it’s a point worth spelling out. ALL animals have bacteria in their stool.
So, don’t let your kids put bearded dragon poop in their mouth. If they do, they’ll get sick. Honestly, if someone doesn’t think they can handle that rule, then they probably shouldn’t get any pet for their kids.
Here’s a simple rule: always wash your hands both before and after handling your bearded dragon. While hand sanitizer is an option, a thorough washing with antibacterial soap is a much better way to go.
If this rule is followed, your kids have a significantly higher chance of getting salmonella from a cat or a salad as opposed to a bearded dragon. If you haven’t banned salad from your house, you’ll be just fine with a bearded dragon.
Bearded Dragons are clean animals
Beardies are notably clean animals. They will typically only poop in one area of their enclosure. They do not like to get their feces on themselves and do a good job of avoiding it. They can also often be potty trained! We wrote a guide to help you do that that you can see here.
Beardies should also get a bath 2-3 times per week. It’s also important to keep their enclosure clean. That’s a relatively easy and quick job, but it must be done for the health of your beardie as well as those who may handle them. We have also put together a step by step guide on beardie bath time here!
This combined with their clean nature means that as long as hands are washed, there really is no worry in handling them.
Why beardies make great pets for kids
Now that we’ve cleared up the misconception of bacteria and parasites, let’s look at why beardies make great pets for kids (and for us adults, too!!!).
They are hypoallergenic
A lot of kids simply can’t have a cat or dog because of allergies. Either theirs or their parent’s. This is almost never a problem with reptiles.
A bearded dragon is a great pet choice for kids with allergies to traditional pet dander and hair. If your kid has serious allergies, of course, check with your doctor first.
They are easy to care for
When a family gets a dog, the kids always promise to take care of the dog, walk the dog, feed the dog, etc. A week later, it has become the parent’s sole responsibility. The kid doesn’t do anything but occasionally play with the dog. I know this because I WAS that kid!
That will happen with any pet. It’s just the nature of kids. The great thing about a bearded dragon is that they require very little care. Feed them once a day. Pick up their (smelly, but small compared to dogs and cats) poop. Bathe them 2-3 times a week (10-15 minute easy job). That’s about it.
You can see our complete care manual here if you want details (article coming soon), but in total, I’d say it only takes us an average of 5-10 minutes a day to care for our beardie, not including one-on-one time.
That’s a stark contrast to the time investment needed for almost any other animal!
They are docile
Beardies are naturally docile. Combine that with them actually enjoying human interaction, and it makes them perfect for kids.
They typically don’t bite, scratch, or otherwise harm people. Once they are socialized, they are gentle, fun, and extremely easy to handle!
They are also easy to hold for nail trimming, putting in the bath, and other needed contact.
They live a long time
Bearded dragons will live, on average, about 10 years in captivity. Your new reptile friend will be with you for a while.
This is vastly different from other small animals that can be kept in similar enclosures. Fish, hamsters, and guinea pigs don’t live nearly as long.
It’s never fun to have to explain to your kid that Fluffy is now running in a spinning wheel in heaven. A bearded dragon will stick around and be your child’s friend for quite some time.
Low space constraints.
Do you have room for a 36”-48” wide terrarium? If so, you have room for a bearded dragon. There is some variance in the size enclosure you will need, so We wrote a full explanation of those that you can see here.
In the end, though, they take up vastly less room than dogs and cats, and you don’t have to walk them either!!! They are perfectly happy in their glass homes.
They don’t need a lot of attention
Not only are they happy in their enclosures, but they are happy to be there alone.
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures. They like to sit under their basking light for hours by themselves. They like to dig in and chill alone in their vivarium.
Our dragon, Bacardi, spends hours laying flat on her rock just staring at the picture we have on the outside wall of her enclosure. She loves it when we play with her, but she is completely content to spend most time alone with her little beardie thoughts.
Easy to feed
Not only are they easy to feed, but they are fun to feed too! Watching them hunt and consume crickets or Dubia roaches (to see which is the best live protein source for your beardie, see my article here) never gets old. It’s one of our favorite things to do.
Outside of some insects, simply give them some veggies once a day in a bowl and make sure they have some water. It really couldn’t be easier.
For an idea of what a bearded dragon eats, how often it eats, and a list of things it can’t or shouldn’t eat, check out our complete bearded dragon food guide here (article coming soon).
Bearded dragons are parent-friendly
As I mentioned before, it’s the parents who end up with most of the pet care duties. Almost everything just listed goes towards a bearded dragon being easy on the parents.
They also have another very important quality that parents love. They don’t make noise! Anyone who has had a bird, or barky dog, or needy cat can appreciate this. Beardies are virtually silent.
They won’t tear up your house. They won’t chew up your slippers like a dog. They won’t climb your drapes like a cat. They won’t poop all over your house like birds or rabbits.
They don’t smell (although you’ll definitely know when they poop!) and other than needing to find a place in your home for their enclosure, they won’t impact your house in any other way!
Beardies are, quite possibly, one of the most parent-friendly pets in the world.
Do kids make good bearded dragon owners?
So it’s pretty clear that I think beardies make great pets for kids. As a first pet, they are pretty much a perfect choice. But one more question needs to be answered…
Are your kids good for a bearded dragon?
Only you, as a parent, can answer this question. I can’t do it for you. What I can do, though, is give you an outline of what is needed for your kids to safely handle a bearded dragon.
If you think they can handle these steps, you’ll probably be okay. If you think little Johnny would rather squeeze your beardie like a toothpaste tube to see what comes out, maybe it’s not a good choice.
Here are the steps to safe handling of a bearded dragon by your children:
- Remind them of the rules. Beardies are small and young ones are fragile. No squeezing, throwing, scaring, or otherwise being rough with them.
- Gently take out your beardie and make sure they are calm.
- Have your kids sit down on the floor. This way if they drop your beardie, it’s not a big fall.
- Let them hold their bearded dragon. For a guide to how to pick up and hold a beardie, complete with images, click here.
- If it’s a big beardie, maybe put a towel down. Their nails can be sharp.
- Limit how long they get to hold their beardie to under an hour. Handling them for too long could stress out your dragon.
- Show your kids how to open and close the cage. Make sure they know how to keep the vivarium securely closed.
- Let them know no unsupervised visits if they aren’t old enough, but they can watch the beardie through the glass any time they want!
- Just like fish, no banging or tapping on the glass. Stress is not good for bearded dragons.
Basically, they aren’t dogs and you can’t rough house with them. You can, however, hang out with them. You can leave them on your shoulder while you watch TV. They can sit on your lap while you read.
They really are great pets for both parents and kids for all the reasons above and many more. I know we love our beardie, Bacardi, and look forward to the time we spend with her. We even have a webcam set up so we can check on her whenever we want!
I know that if you choose a bearded dragon as a pet for you and your family, you will grow to feel the same way we do!
Are bearded dragon nails sharp and will they scratch my kids?
They are very sharp. Most bearded dragons don’t have enough weight to break the skin or scratch, but it can happen. Proper handling and proper clothing will all but eliminate any problems here. It’s also important to regularly trim their nails so they don’t get too sharp in the first place. We wrote a complete guide with pictures on trimming their nails here!
Do bearded dragons bite?
They can, but almost never do. If handled properly and gently, this will most likely never happen. If your dragon is stressed out (you can tell because their chins will puff up and turn black), don’t handle them. Only handle a calm bearded dragon.
Also, see our short but important guide on how to pick up a bearded dragon. If done properly, they will literally be unable to bite you even if they wanted to. For even more information on bearded dragon bites, see our full article here.
Do I have to feed them live insects?
That said, it’s actually very easy. I recommend Dubia roaches (these are in no way shape or form a cockroach!) over crickets, but both are viable food sources. As predators, bearded dragons need to hunt live prey. It is also the best protein source for them.
If you stick with Dubia roaches, you’ll find that keeping live feeders and giving them to your beardie for food will not only be easy, but also fun!