The Dragon Your Kids Have Always Wanted

As parents, we know how much our children LOVE playing and snuggling furry (and even scaly) friends. “Can we get a puppy?” or “I want a pet!” are phrases that we hear all too often. Pets are a huge responsibility though and shouldn’t be an impulsive purchase. Pets (of any species) need careful thought, planning, and a committed family.

Adopting a dog, or a cat, aren’t always the best (or affordable) options for some families, especially since they are considered to be more “high maintenance”. For those parents who are interested in welcoming a new member to the family, but would like an option that is a little more relaxed from the aforementioned pet, you might want to consider a more reptilian option.

Insert the sweet loving Bearded Dragon, aka beardie. They are a non aggressive, low maintenance, kid friendly, social, funny, and hygienic pet. They are also a real life “dragon” which is cool to bring up in conversation. Not the Game of Thrones type, of course, but one that is kind and won’t exhale fire. 

An adult bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are GREAT companions and are considered to be one of the top choices for a family pet. We recently adopted our funny little Gary Cocoa and absolutely adore having him as part of the family. Our daughters, ages 9 and 5, love to spend time with him and the feeling is mutual.

Unlike other lizards, beardies are fond of being in the company of their owner, aren’t picky eaters, easy to care for, and very friendly. Although they grow to be quite large, approximately two feet in length, the maintenance of their enclosure and care is quite simple. 

If you’re intrigued, good! Read on for some tips on how to care for your dinosaur looking friend. 

Docile nature – let’s just say that the beardie is similar to a couch potato. They simply just… well …. chill. As stated before, bearded dragons like to hangout with their owners; watching TV, cuddling in a “beardie burrito“, or cozying up on your chest. They have a sweet temperament and are quite gentle. 

Our beardie, Gary Cocoa, wrapped in his beardie burrito

Deciding on a habitat – Although beardies are considered to be low maintenance once adopted, the upfront costs can be a little pricey. Be sure that you are able to financially support your beardie with the proper habitat and equipment before bringing him or her home. Since bearded dragons grow to be quite large they will need a fairly large habitat and they need an environment that is similar to the Australian dessert. Because of this, beardies are commonly kept in glass tanks and ones that are at least 4 feet in length to ensure that there is an ample amount of room. Bearded dragons also need a basking bulb, as well as a basking area for them to keep nice and warm. They love and need the heat so this is extremely important. Our beardie has a basking rock, a large stick, and two hammocks which gives him many options to choose from. Many of these items (except the bulb) can be gathered outside vs. in the store. Of course, if you are going the al natural approach with items in nature, be sure to bake them at 180 degrees (80 degrees Celsius) for 15 minutes to kill off any bacteria that could potential harm your lizard friend. You should also have a thermometer perched in the habitat to monitor the temperature. Beardies like the temp during the day to be at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit and in the evening a bit cooler, around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another option, if you’re the DIY type, is to make your own habitat or purchase a starter kit that comes with the basics.

Feeding your beardie – Beardies are omnivores and require protein (crickets) and vegetables (leafy greens, sweet potatoes, bok choy, collard greens, and yellow squash). They also love certain fruits for a snack (mango and papaya are a great choice).

Under the age of 1, your pet should have an 80% (protein) to 20% (veggie) ratio. As they get older, this ratio will switch to 20% (protein) to 80% (veggies). Crickets typically cost around $3.00 and should last you about 1 month. For an additional snack you can also give meal worms.

It is essential to give your bearded dragon calcium. This is needed for bone strength and growth. You can do this by simply “dipping” their food (aka cricket) into calcium powder before feeding it to your beardie. This sounds a lot more gross than it really is…

The calcium powder costs about $5-10, depending on where it is purchased, and will last for several months.

Having fun with your beardie – Although bearded dragons are pretty lazy in nature, there are occasional moments when you can see their goofy side through playtime. As your beardie gets older, you can begin taking them on walks with a reptile harness outdoors. As long as it’s warm enough of course. Beardies also love to play with small rolling objects and swim (bathe) in shallow water.

If you need more convincing check out this video for more information.


Does anyone else have pets of the reptilian type? Do share!

Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the mom’s blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.


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