Has your child been begging for a pet? Most kids love the idea of a pet, but very few realize the commitment that it takes to care for an animal properly. If your child is begging for a pet, resist the temptation to buy her a pet as a toy. Yes, she loved the little chick she saw at the farm or the baby bunny he held at the petting zoo. But keep in mind that pets become members of your family, requiring almost as much attention and care as your children. They also create their own ecological “paw prints” in the food, toys, bedding, and care they will require. So if you and your child aren’t ready to spend the time, energy, and money involved in feeding, walking, training, bathing, amusing, and loving a pet, consider one of these options instead:

Stuff it: Buy your little one a stuffed animal instead. If he has his heart set on a furry new pal, maybe he’d like a Build-A-Bear pet. Pet choices range from the traditional bear to dogs, cats, and bunnies, as well as dinosaurs and wild animals. In fact, purchasing one of their special “wild” animals such as a cheetah or a panda bear, benefits the conservation efforts of the World Wildlife Fund.

Adopt-a-shelter: Animal-loving kids can show their love for pets by helping out at their local animal shelter. Talk to your local organization to learn how your child can help. Ideas include fundraising, creating informative fliers, designing a website, or collecting recycled newspaper to line animal cages.

Pet sit: If your child is begging you for a pet, try pet sitting for a friend or fostering a pet from your local shelter. If your child is not ready to handle the responsibility of waking up early to feed, water, walk, and care for her pet each day, hold off on getting her one of her own.

Make an eco-treat: Give your feathered friends a nutritious treat while helping your child appreciate the wildlife in his own backyard. Generously coat a pinecone with peanut butter and roll in oatmeal or sunflower seeds. Tie a string that is 3 to 4 feet in length around the stem of your feeder and hang it from a nearby tree branch.

Can't have a pet?
Teaching your kids to care about and care for animals even if you can't have pets.