{Raising Tadpoles: The Perfect Family Pet!}

As all kids do, our little peas have been asking more and more lately about getting a pet.

Clearly, there are both pros and cons to having kids and pets. There are many benefits to kids having pets, like teaching them responsibility and all about the circle of life, etc. They can be a source of comfort to your kids. And they can provide endless entertainment for children.

But Daddy Pea and I are just not really into the idea. I don't know why exactly, as we both grew up with pets, but neither of us really likes the idea of having an animal in our house. It's extra cleaning, an extra 'person' to take care of, and - the biggest one for us - a hindrance when it comes to travel (which we do quite a lot of). Really, we barely manage to function smoothly enough to take care of all the responsibilities we've already got. Throwing another one into the mix really wouldn't be wise. And we are seemingly incapable of keeping houseplants alive, so how could we take on a pet?

However, the idea of having a pet for the kids to learn about and get enjoyment from is certainly appealing - at least for a short time. So we decided to try out some temporary 'pets'. When we were visiting the grandparents at their new home, recently, we happened to notice that there were millions of tadpoles swimming in the pond!

Right away they got me thinking: Watching tadpoles grow into frogs = learning about the circle of life; caring for tadpoles = learning responsibility; watching tadpoles wiggle and grow = fun for the kids; tadpoles grow into frogs that get returned to the pond = temporary-basis-only pets. All in all - tadpoles seemed like the perfect pet for our family!

So I did a bit of research and found that tadpoles grow into frogs in about 6 weeks - perfect, since we had about 8 weeks until we go on summer holidays. I found out what they eat (frozen lettuce), what kind of water they need (pond water, or if not, then tap water that has been left sitting outside for a week to evaporate any chlorine from it), and what else they need (rocks to hide under and to sit on when they become frogs; a bowl or bucket of some kind to contain the water; something to cover the container when they are almost ready to hop; a change of water once or twice a week - by pouring half out and refilling it, preferably with new pond water; and feeding every 2-3 days).

So, we went back to the pond with a bucket and some empty water bottles to gather some pond water and a few tadpoles. I picked up a lettuce and popped it in the freezer. I bought an old fishbowl from a colleague for $5. We brought home a ton of books from the library about how tadpoles grow into frogs, and even a video to watch. We got our new pets set up on our upstairs balcony, away from any animals or birds that might try to get to get them, and close to where the kids often play. We've brought them in a few nights when the temperature became quite cool, but mostly they are outside all the time.

And now we wait. And wait.

It's been about 3 weeks now, and so far there is no visible change at all, except that they are now bigger tadpoles! But the girls and I have been having fun watching them wiggle, dropping in tiny bits of frozen lettuce, watching their mouths gaping open and shut, and changing the water. (We did lose a few, one that got caught between the rocks during a water change, and a couple of others that just didn't grow.) We've noted how if you look closely, you can see that their body shape is sort of frog-like - with bulgy eye parts, wide mouths, and bellies that hang down. We're actually really enjoying our new pets! (Except for Daddy Pea, who is a bit grossed out by them!).

In the meantime, I asked some of my blogger friends about their thoughts on kids and pets. Here's what they had to say:

When I was growing up (central Austin) we had chickens, geese and rabbits. It was so much fun as a kid to go out in the morning and feed the animals and collect the eggs. I think it teaches responsibility. (I am just going to add that my daughter fed all of her broccoli to the dog at dinner tonight - downside) - Kristin @ Sense of Wonder

Having pets have taught my girls responsibility, respect, and compassion. It's also sparked an interest in learning about all sorts of animals. The only downside is having to find someone to take care of all those creatures while you travel! - Terri @ Creative Family Fun

After owning 4 cats, 8 hermit crabs, a giant african millipede and turtles, I have determined (empirically) that the snails we have now are, hands down, the best pets we've ever owned. - Patricia @ Critters and Crayons

I think they are great tools for kids to learn responsibilities and caring. - Valerie @ Glittering Muffins

We have a cat, a guineapig and a toddler. We'd have a lot more animals if Hublet didn't keep me under control (I'm a bit addicted to animals). I think it's really great to introduce kids to animals at a young age, although there are risks, particularly to the animal if you don't do it properly.  - Ray @ Taming the Goblin

Pets are part of family life and childhood memories (we had pets as children). The kids get used to animals, learn about respect and having to look after them. We chose cats as the happy medium of "cuddling & playing" (ours are VERY sweet and very playful - lucky!) and independence (e.g., no dog walking which is a chore, and holidays the neighbours look after them). We did have chickens, but I gave them away when I had Pip Squeak - as it was "too much for me" and it was useful to have more garden for the children. So I guess it is all about WHAT PET you choose.. before you can talk about the pros and cons (e.g., a horse would be very labour intensive and expensive... and to me a goldfish is boring!)  - Maggy @ Red Ted Art

We have a new puppy arriving in July and we are super excited. I grew up with dogs, cats, fish and hamsters. I cannot wait for my girls to experience the unconditional love (and hard work) a pet can bring to a family. - Jen @ Kitchen Counter Chronicles

We have a fish (beta) due to my allergies and my girls tell me it's boring! They so want a dog but I just can't. - Bernadette @ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas

Don't be a clean freak or you will need a straight jacket. We have 1 bird, 1 cat indoors, 2 cats outdoors, 1 turtle, 2 fish... they want a dog because ours passed a few years ago. ACK! - Lora 

Positives: My children have a very good relationship with the dog, understand animals and the care that they need. Our dog is a friend, a playmate and a hot water bottle. Negatives: Picking up poo, having to shut her away if friends' children are scared/allergic, needing to arrange kennels, etc., when on holiday or out all day. On the best days, it's heaven. On the worst, it feels like herding cats!! - Kelly Innes @ Domestic Goddesque

We have backyard chickens, and I LOVE them for little kids- not much work, and you don't feel badly if you don't play with them every day, but they have a lot of personality. - Katey McGill @ Having Fun at Home

Our cats have been a wonderful addition to our family and beneficial to our daughter. She connects well with animals more easily than people, and it's wonderful to see her so readily express her love, care, and affection towards them. I think the only negative with pets is going on vacation. It's not easy to take cats on a vacation, and we miss them while we are gone. Then you have to arrange for care in your absence, too.  - Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam

My 5yr old loves our cat. She's learning about taking care of someone else, and often thinks about the cat's feelings - wondering if the cat will be lonely if we go out for the day. The cat seems to know it's my youngest who loves her most in the family and will always pick her bed to sleep on at night, which my daughter just loves. - Cathy @ Nurturestore

With T and J being so young, it's been easy to teach them about gentle hands and kind hugs with our dog. She adores both of them (they give her food, what dog wouldn't?) and she will follow them everywhere. As they get older both of them will have responsibility for her food and water as well as helping on her walks to teach responsibility. We're getting J some fish for his birthday this year - a tropical tank for our lounge as he loves the one at my parents. He will help us feed them and look after them as well as learn about living things with them. As they get older they will be joined with guinea pigs out in the garden, stick insects. Oh, and we already have African Giant Land Snails, but those are mine! - Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum

I love kids and I love other people's pets... as long as I don't have to take care of them, feed them, or deal with their messes. :) I can barely handle taking care of myself and my own kids. I am also allergic to most pets (except goldfish :)), so we won't have any probably ever... but we spend a lot of time visiting local dog parks and visiting all the neighborhood pets because my kids love animals. - Kristina Buskirk @ Toddler Approved 

We have a cat. After years of begging, DH gave in and agreed to it (I grew up with cats). We've had her for 5 months and I can't figure a way to get my 2 younger girls (age 3 & 5) to stop squeezing the life out of her. They fight over holding her (which she hates) and end up pulling her in 2 different directions. Yesterday DH said he thinks it's time to get rid of her. I thought the excitement of having a pet would calm down a bit, but it hasn't. They seem to love her to pieces, but don't understand why she runs when they enter the room. - Brooke Holt @ Let Kids Create

We have pet worms in a compost box. I love that I don't have to worry about their pooping. - Deirdre @ JDaniel4'sMom

We have a dog that we love dearly and he is my daughter's companion when she plays outside. - Maria Bridwell @ Mama Mia's Heart 2 Heart

Pets share love, laughter, grief with your kids (and you) and they will never judge you for who you are or for what you do. - Angelique @ AngeliqueFelix.com

I grew up with all sorts of animals in our house a dog, two cats, a bird and a turtle and now in our house over the course of 19 years of parenting and teaching we've taken care of two cats, a turtle, hamsters, hermit crabs and lots and lots of fish. Although I'm the first to admit it, they are a lot of work and expense, I think it's something all children should experience. I think it helps them to understand animals, responsibility, compassion, love and also about life and death. - Kim @ The Educators Spin On It

I wish we could have pets but we have allergies. My son asked me last night, when I'm a grownup, can I get a pet by myself. I want a pet that I can play with. I felt so bad. - A Little Journal