Every kid wants a pet. Some start small, asking for a goldfish or a hermit crab; others go all-out from the get-go and ask for a pony; many more go for a more attainable, yet oft-denied option: a dog or cat.

For parents that want to let their kids have a pet but don’t want to take on the responsibilities of a larger animal, there are plenty of toy choices that will let kids have the enjoyment of a live pet.


Sea-Monkeys are a classic item that originated in the 1950s. Kids “hatch” their own brine shrimp—nicknamed Sea-Monkeys—from numbered packets and follow instructions in an enchantedly illustrated instruction booklet, depicting the Sea-Monkeys as a magical underwater society. The graphic element of Sea-Monkeys is enough to lure many kids in, but watching the Sea-Monkeys come to life and grow keeps kids interested, and teaches them responsibility as they must feed their pets each week.

Aqua Dragons are a similar species to Sea-Monkeys. Kids empty the Aqua Dragon eggs into a tank of purified water and wait for them to hatch and grow. Aqua Dragons are slightly larger than Sea-Monkeys, and have three eyes—sure to excite and inspire kids.

Ant Farms are another classic toy that lets kids keep live “pets” and lets them learn at the same time. Ants build intricate colonies in the soil between two panes of plastic, letting kids watch as the ants interact, carve out new routes and spaces, and care for one another. There are a variety of Ant Farms to choose from, from Vinage to Giant.

The Butterfly Jungle, from Uncle Milton, ships with a live caterpillar inside a colorful tank. Kids get to watch the cycle of a butterfly, from the crawling caterpillar to the cocoon, and finally a beautiful winged butterfly. Once their butterfly has emerged, kids can set it free.

Caring for a living thing is a valuable lesson for kids. Starting off with low-maintenance creatures such as these are a great way for kids to have the pleasure of a pet and learn to feed and care for them properly.

For more commentary from Christine, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!