Parental wisdom tells us that pet ownership and happy families go hand in hand. Pets teach responsibility to our kids. They can provide companionship, distraction and fun. But there are some underrated animal friends who are cheap, easy to care for, and who serve a lofty purpose – teaching kids science. Don’t overlook these critters when choosing a pet.
What Can be Learned from a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach?
- How is roach reproduction different from that of mammals? The mother roach’s ootheca (an unusual, protein-encased pod of eggs) can be seen by kids from behind.
- What are the parts of a roach? Hissing Cockroaches are big. Without handling or a magnifying glass, kids can easily see the antennae used for smelling, compound eyes with over 2,000 lenses, and six prickly legs that can grab and hold tight.
- How do they hiss? These roaches have the unique ability to hiss not with their mouth, but by forcing air out of spiracles – respiratory holes in their abdomens.
What Can be Learned from a Tadpole?
- Why is clean, unpolluted water important? Tadpoles will die without clear, chemical-free water and healthy plants. Tending to an amphibious toddler’s home can teach kids the importance of environmental stewardship.
- What is an amphibian? The tadpole will require water, but also rocks to climb on. Children see first hand how amphibious animals live happily both in water and on land.
- What is metamorphosis? When an animal changes its body well after being born, it is called metamorphosis. Tadpoles look a lot different from a frog. The dramatic difference between the tadpole and the frog is an obvious, memorable observation for children.
What Can be Learned from a Chick?
- How does an egg hatch? With a warm light, a soft towel, and a cardboard box, your child can hatch their little pal and learn that chicks are born more tough and self-reliant than mammal babies. They peck through membranes and shell, stand on their own, and find their own food.
- Why do baby birds follow their moms? Children will love “imprinting” their chick. Most animals, immediately after birth, locate an object that will show them how to be alive. All it takes is a toy that rolls and makes noise. When the chick is old enough, it will follow that toy everywhere!
- Why can’t I keep the chicken? Discuss responsible pet ownership. Non-domesticated animals, like chickens and the aforementioned tadpoles, should live with their own kind in a natural environment. You can also talk about raising animals for food. Do they see now why even food animals should be treated with respect?