While they may not be as fluffy and cuddly as a cat or dog, bearded dragons are good-natured animals which make excellent pets. They may be a better choice for a household with a limited budget - the initial set-up for a "bearded dragon pet" is expensive, but their maintenance costs are much lower than those for a furry pet. They are also a good choice for children with allergies. However, as when acquiring any pet for a child, you must honestly assess whether your child is responsible enough to care for an animal, and whether he or she is willing to commit to a pet that can live 8-10 years in captivity.
The relatively easy tasks involved in caring for a "bearded dragon pet" may help prepare a child to take on the responsibility of a more demanding pet, such as a cat or dog. However, you should be sure that your child is genuinely interested in owning a bearded dragon and that it is not just a "substitute" for the pet they really want. Additionally, care should be taken that the bearded dragon is not overlooked when the new pet is acquired.
Bearded dragons need a large terrarium and a lighting system which includes a UVA/UVB bulb and a heat source. It is sometimes possible to find terrariums for sale second-hand, but bulbs should always be purchased new. Outfitting a terrarium will cost $200-400, and the bulbs will need to be replaced every six months at a cost of about $30 each. Other than that, bearded dragons can live cheaply off the same fruits and vegetables your family eats, as well as feeder insects which can be ordered in bulk online. Be sure that your child is willing to feed live insects to the dragon (and consider whether you would be willing to do so if he or she is not!).
Once the set-up is established, maintenance is simple and should take less than fifteen minutes per day. The basic tasks involved are feeding the dragon, providing fresh water, and spot-cleaning the terrarium. Once every other month, the terrarium should be deep-cleaned - a task that is probably better suited to an adult than a child. However, the daily chores are unlikely to be overwhelming for even a busy child.
Bearded dragons are different from cats and dogs in that they do not need social interaction, and will not become depressed if your child cannot spend time with them every day. That being said, they are docile and easy to handle. Because bearded dragons are small, it is important that your child moves slowly and gently when picking them up. Young children may not be able to control their movements as well and may startle the dragon, so this pet is best for older children. Bearded dragons rarely bite, but you or your child will need to trim their claws to prevent unintentional scratches.
In conclusion, bearded dragons make excellent pets for older children. If you are confident that your child is capable of spending a few minutes each day maintaining the terrarium, and you are sure he or she will not get bored with their pet, these small reptiles can be a great addition to your household. Additionally, bearded dragons have two very parent-friendly traits as far as pets go: they don't make any noise, and they don't scratch up the furniture or floors!