Best and Worst Pets for Kids in the Classroom
Reminiscing on the classroom pets of my past, I’ve come to realise that perhaps some were not suited to the hectic learning environments of a school. As an adult, I’m able to think about what creatures I can to expose kids to without stressing out the animal. One of my biggest goals in opening a parrot sanctuary here in the U.S. is to focus on education.
With a rare few exceptions, parrots are not suited for a classroom. They need some pretty intensive care, an environment in which they feel safe, proper diet, and one-on-one time with training; they also have the potential to bite pretty hard, even when very small. That’s why I would like to start an educational programme in schools: take the parrots to the kids. This would provide students with a learning experience tailored to their needs, and allow the birds socialisation within their limits.
I believe that all kids should be exposed to animals. Helping to care for a pet will nurture many wonderful traits, including responsibility and empathy for another living being. The caveat is that I feel that no child should be left solely responsible for their pet, as they are still young and growing themselves!
That’s why a class pet can be so beneficial. In school, every kid can benefit. The real work will fall on the teacher, however, to ensure the animal’s health and happiness. Know that not all animals are suited to a classroom.
If you’re a teacher seeking a great classroom pet you can safely keep around kids, try asking these questions:
1. Can I afford a pet’s care in terms of time and money?
2. Are my students of an age where they’ll need of constant supervision while handling a pet?
3. What kind of a commitment am I looking for? Can I handle a lot of after-school care?
4. Will being around kids and their energy affect the animal negatively (if so, will it bite if stressed)?
Without further ado:
Best pets for kids in the classroom:
1. Syrian Hamster: Syrians are known for their calm, gentle demeanour, unlike some dwarf breeds that are quite nippy. Hamsters are small, soft, and cuddly, and are a medium-level commitment (they need love and care just the same). It’s easy to kit one out for its lifetime, but do keep them singly, please. Gerbils, rats, and Degu pairs are another fun alternative.
2. Fish: a fish tank is wonderful addition to any classroom. There are many beautiful varieties of inexpensive underwater life that need just a clean tank, food, and a little enrichment in there. The educational opportunities are endless. I loved watching the fish as a child, and found it very soothing. Maintaining a healthy fresh water tank requires a low level of commitment.
3. Sea monkeys: the sea monkey colony provides all the same benefits that a fish tank does, with even less work. A sea monkey kit is easily purchased, and with one, you can raise your little fellows right from the eggs, teaching the cycle of life. Perfect for classrooms with allergy cases, or kids who may be wary of an animal, these are an ultra-low level of commitment.
4. A butterfly house: raising a butterfly through all the stages of its life before releasing it provides a wonderful and environmentally friendly way of teaching kids about biology. Low commitment; high education potential.
Worst pets for kids in the classroom:
1. Parrots: parrots aren’t a great classroom pet due to the fact that they are an ultra-high commitment level. These needy, noisy animals are expensive to keep and feed, plus they do bite. Even a budgie (sometimes called a parakeet) depends on having its flock and quiet one-on-one time, so if a teacher isn’t able to commit to multiple hours of weekend and holiday care, this is a pet best left out of the classroom. To maintain its health, any parrot will need to see an avian vet once a year. Birds who are stressed or unhealthy may bite, scream, or pluck their feathers. Finches might be a slightly better alternative to a parrot; however, they can also be quite loud, and tend not to like to be handled.
2. Rabbits: bunnies are like birds. They are very intelligent creatures who have some pretty specialised needs. A rabbit requires more than just some hay in its cage. They need to see a vet, they live a long time, and represent a very high level of commitment that doesn’t typically mesh well with a teacher’s busy schedule.
3. Guinea Pig: the adorable guinea pig is a gentle pet that needs a lot of interaction to stay healthy and happy. They are social creatures, so are best for children over ten years of age who are ready for the responsibility of such a dependent pet. A guinea pig really needs time to play and explore even on weekends – because of this, they have a high level of commitment. Teachers who are set on having one in the classroom need to provide quality aspen bedding and a good diet.
4. Reptiles: snakes, lizards, turtles, and more have the potential to carry salmonella, so unless a teacher is able to guarantee the careful hand washing of each and every pupil, this is somewhat of a risk. With snakes, you also will need to feed mice or rats, depending on the size – and any reptile requires a specific set up, which can get pricey. If prepared for all this, however, turtles and lizards are popular pets with a low bite risk, and are a medium level of commitment.
What were your favourite classroom pets growing up?