Keeping pets is a great way for children to learn about responsibility, as well as helping them to develop a kind, caring attitude towards both animals and people. The reality is that this can be a bit of trial and error while the child learns about the animal and how to live with it. Not all animals are suitable for children as pets and unless you live on a farm, it is best to get a small animal and nothing too exotic! It is generally considered best to go for something that is low maintenance initially as it may well be you that takes on the bulk of the care anyway, at least until your children are up to speed with looking after their pet. Small pets, like rabbits, guinea pigs or mice are good as they are fairly contained, cheap to keep and are entertaining.
Hamsters can be a good choice too but they do usually tend to sleep a lot during the day and come out at night. Dogs are good for companionship but they can be expensive to buy in the first place, unless you go the worthy route of re-homing a dog from a local rescue center. Than you are taking a risk that you don't know anything about their background, what temperament their parents had so on. This option may not make the best pet for a family with children. Always check with the staff for as full a background as possible and make sure you understand the temperament of the breed and how big they are likely to get if not fully grown yet. You'll also need to think about responsibility and costs. Do you have enough time to train, socialize, feed, groom, exercise and play with a dog? Or any pet, for that matter. Animals need food, toys, collars, and visits to the vet for proper vaccinations -can you afford it? Also remember that pets will bring unexpected events such as chewed and scratched furniture, fleas and behavior issues that can have a negative impact on children for years.
Small is probably best in this instance. Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters all make good pets and provided you keep them clean, fed and watered, will be great fun. Vets bills are relatively low but it's best to do some research first into things like winter care. Food is relatively cheap and bedding also cheap though if you have a paper shredder at home, bedding is free as shredded paper is great to part line a cage in conjunction with straw. It's more likely that children will be in to something cute and cuddly though you will get the odd child who is into reptiles. It is best to stay clear of these unless you really research them first and are prepared to buy the necessary tank and live food. Toddlers and pre-school children should always be supervised around any animal.
Cute as they are, kittens are not appropriate for children under age 5, because a toddler's affectionate hug can seriously injure them. More mature cats are better able to cope with children and their fast, unexpected movements and loud noise however, an older cat who feels threatened will naturally protect itself with the swat of a paw. There is a general concern as to the risk of a cat smothering a baby while it's sleeping. This appears to be largely myth, however due to the risk of suffocation, it is not acceptable to allow a cat in the bed of a child under three years of age.