My twins have been asking for their very own pets for ages. I used the old "when you are old enough to take care of it," excuse for a while. They held firm. Asking patiently. Again and again and again.
Now, while I think there is plenty to be gained by having the responsiblility of taking care of a pet, I also have seen the flip side enough to know that any pet requires occassional adult supervision. In other words, their pet = my pet.
They were open to pretty much any animal we would allow, as long as they each had their very own. I ruled out fish, just because we already have 2 fish tanks in the household and six year olds can't really handle the water changes themselves. Hamsters/gerbils/rats? Too smelly. Birds. Ditto, plus loud. Lizards? Too fast. Snakes? Too snakey. Tarantulas? Never.
Hermit crabs? Perfect. They don't smell. They can't run away (well, I did hear this one story...). The kids can clean the tanks. And if you don't think of them as big spiders with fancy shells, they are actually kind of cute. Added bonus: your kids get to pick out a few extra shells for when the crabs get bigger, kind of like fashion accessories.
A month and a half later I am happy to report that both crabby friends are alive and well. Speedy (pictured above) is beginning to earn his name; and Pattern, a tinier version who wasn't cooperating during the photoshoot is doing fine too. So what's not perfect? One pinched finger so far, but that's it. It was probably justified. Afterall, a hermit crab can't be expected to tolerate tea parties and dress-ups all day, right? I figure a pinch or two is their way of saying enough is enough. We all have our limits.
All in all, I think we chose well, but I am sure there are some other good options out there. I'd love to hear what worked (or didn't) for you. So let me know, what was the perfect (or not so perfect) pet for your kid?