Taking Home the Class Pet

So your son or daughter just brought home a school notice stating that it’s their turn to babysit the class mascot all next week. Don’t panic…. how hard can it be, it’s just for five days, right?

It can be exciting and a little intimidating at first for your little one, and yes, maybe for you too, but remember that your child will be looking to you for guidance and behavior modeling. Taking care of the class pet can be a positive experience. It can teach them patience, empathy, and what it’s like to take responsibility for something.   These are very important lessons for young children as they begin to develop socially.

Here’s a crash course in “Critter Sitting 101” for all those parents who suddenly find themselves faced with this impending task.

Critter Sitting 101

The “critter” in question will most likely be small and come with its own home, thank goodness, usually a cage of some sort. There will be feeding and cleaning tasks for which your child will probably be responsible during the duration of your house guest’s stay.

Hopefully a set of instructions will be included. The teacher may even ask that you and your child keep a record of all the activities that are completed while care is being provided….feeding, cleaning, and playtime. Here are some examples of the type of critter that may be knocking at your door very soon.

  1. Goldfish

Living Quarters: A bowl or aquarium

Meals: Nutrient-rich fish food flakes in small quantities

Personality: No petting or playing fetch for “Goldie” but watching fish can be very calming.

Age Range: Perfect for kids 5 or older


  1. Guinea Pig

Living Quarters: A wire or mesh cage

Meals: Pellets with a side dish of peas and carrots

Personality: Cuddle bugs; they love to snuggle with their care givers and make cooing sounds. Even a toddler can handle one as long as he or she is gentle and supervised.

Age Range: Appropriate for 3 and up with adult supervision


  1. Frog

Living Quarters: An aquarium with a heat lamp and screened top to prevent mad dashes to the outside world.

Meals: Live crickets or larvae

Personality: Squirmy, wiggle monsters; easily dropped when handled, best to keep contained in its living quarters.

Age Range: Definitely for older kids, 6 and up


  1. Hamster

Living Quarters: A wire or mesh cage

Meals: Hamster mix with added treats of sunflower seeds, spinach, lettuce, or apples

Personality: Playful, but they do prefer long naps during the day and may be cranky and sometimes nip when awakened.

Age Range: Good for older kids, 6 and up with adult supervision