Pets provide children with an opportunity to learn responsibility and make a special type of emotional bond with their pet. Many parents associates pets with cats and dogs, but aquatic pets can be very good pets for young children and are a great pet to have if anyone in the family is allergic to fur, or if cats and dogs are not permitted where you live.
There are several types of aquatic pets to choose from, each with their own distinguishable characteristics and necessary routine care. Fish are relatively simple to maintain and are available in an assortment of colorful varieties and sizes. Frogs and lizard type pets such as geckos and newts also make good pets, though young children tend to want to take them out and hold them more which will increase the risk of a frog or lizard on the loose in the house. Turtles also make good aquatic pets that are too slow to be hard to catch should they escape, but maintaining a clean turtle tank is more difficult than maintaining the tanks of other aquatic pets and anyone who handles a turtle should immediately wash their hands to kill the germs carried by turtles.
When your children are young, they should be involved in the care necessary for an aquatic pet, including feeding it and cleaning its tank. Your child needs to know that this pet depends on him or her to take care of them, much like your child depends on you. Let your child know that now they have new jobs and responsibilities that are associated with their having a new pet to enjoy. These new tasks can be put on a prominently displayed checklist to remind your child of what they need to do to care for their pet. You will need to be very specific and help your child when they feed their pet for the first few times. Aquatic creatures should not receive large amounts of food at one time. Giving your child a spoon that is just the right size to accommodate the right portion of food will help to avoid overfeeding. Cleaning tanks of fishbowls will require more of your help depending upon your child’s age, though your child should be involved somehow, even if just to rinse gravel or wipe down the sides of the tank with a dry cloth.
Fish, frogs, turtles and other aquatic pets teach responsibility while entertaining all members of the family with their unique characteristics. Sharing books or websites that discuss your aquatic pet can be very educational for both you and your child as well one of the fun experiences associated with your child’s first aquatic pet.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His Web site, www.TerrificParenting.com
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