When students walk into a classroom and see a pet, their eyes light up. Not only are the best classroom pets engaging and fun, but they also create opportunities for learning. Having classroom pets can teach students about habitats and what animals need to survive. Plus, having classroom pets helps students learn responsibility and respect for animals.
When I first started teaching, most classrooms had a pet! From hamsters to guinea pigs, fish, turtles, and lizards, most kids had the opportunity to meet a pet at school. One of my teaching colleagues actually had a litter-trained bunny that hopped around the classroom throughout the school day. The students loved the bunny!
Nowadays, in many schools, classroom pets are no longer allowed. Safety concerns, allergies, and even animal cruelty are some of the reasons that real, living animals are banned from many school settings. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with pets! There are many excellent classroom pet alternatives that can bring many benefits to your students.
The Top 5 Best Classroom Pets: Alternatives to Consider
The best classroom pets don’t have to be traditional pets. I find that alternative classroom pets are often easier to care for but still bring the fun, excitement, and learning opportunities of traditional classroom pets.
How can you use classroom pet alternatives in your class? I have used them in different ways, including for learning about animal needs, habitats, and even endangered species. Plus, you can involve other subject areas, such as creating a story-writing lesson about the classroom pet. Other teachers have even used some of these classroom pets as a part of their classroom management strategies. Take a look at the best classroom pets and alternatives.
Please note that Amazon affiliate links are used in this post, meaning I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using one of these links. All of the suggestions linked below are the same or similar to the ones I use in my own classroom.
These fun toys grow slowly in the water. In my classroom, I use small water tanks to grow a starfish and a stingray. The students named them Clyde and Ray. My students love watching these fun, rubbery creatures grow in the water. Picking a name for your classroom grow pet is a perfect lesson topic. Have students vote on a name and then teach them how to create a graph to show the winning name.
There’s something mesmerizing about lava lamps. When students in my classroom need a brain break, I like to make sure there are opportunities for them to relax and reset. A Jellyfish Lava Lamp fits the bill! Students can take a break and watch the jellyfish lava lamp, just like how they might observe a fish tank.
This classroom pet alternative can also provide inspiration for a research project on jellyfish. There are many different types of jellyfish that you can have students investigate and write reports about.
Did someone say Venus Fly Trap? Students love carnivorous plants! So, adding this specimen to your classroom plant collection is sure to amaze your students. This is one of the best classroom pets because it is high-interest, engaging, and provides many learning benefits.
Be sure to follow instructions for caring for the Venus Fly Trap carefully, as they are delicate plants. Students can learn to care for Venus Fly Traps by researching their needs and their natural habitat. Venus Fly Traps are fascinating because they grow in poor-quality soil which is why they need to get nutrients from insects. Setting off the traps is also lots of fun! However, it’s important for students to learn to only set off the traps when feeding. I recommend working with students to come up with a fair way to take turns feeding the Venus Fly Trap.
Desk pets are 3D animal erasers that are part of a growing trend for classroom management. Students can earn these classroom pets through positive behavior. One way I’ve seen teachers do this is by creating a “pet store.” Then, students “purchase” or “adopt” pets with coupons that they earn over time through positive behavior. Many teachers also add pet accessories or food to their pet stores that students can buy. To keep the pets under control, many teachers also help students create pet homes or habitats. That way, the classroom pets can be safely stowed in a box while students are working.
What if your class adopted an animal in need? The World Wildlife Fund protects wild animals and has a program that allows people to adopt an animal. Once, my class adopted a manatee. It was the best classroom pet for us and was also a fun class project. We held a bake sale to earn money for the adoption.
If you’d like to adopt an animal for your classroom, you can turn it into a whole unit. Students can learn about wild animals that need help. Then, students can vote on which animal they would like to “adopt.” The World Wildlife Fund sends a certificate with a photo and a stuffed animal. It can become a class mascot that students name and even take turns taking home.
Choosing the Best Classroom Pet Alternative for Your Students
The best classroom pets for your classroom depend on your teaching style, goals, and of course the needs of your students. Each of the above pets offers many opportunities for learning, engagement, and growth in your classroom. Although these pets aren’t cuddly, they aren’t messy either. I hope you and your students have lots of fun expanding your classroom with one…or many…new classroom pets!