It's a question most parents have faced at least once: "Can we get a pet?"
Whether it's a dog, hamster, lizard or goldfish, there's just something about pets that kids love. And most parents can only pull off the "when you get older" or "have you considered a rock?" for so long.
But before you give into your child's demands-or even if it's too late-head to Chicago Children's Museum, where the new "Ready, Pet, Go!" exhibit sheds some light on pet ownership and lets kids have lots of fun with imaginative play.
"Children love pets. They love to play with animals, pretend to be animals," says Jennifer Farrington, president and CEO. "It's a wonderful part of their social and emotional development."
So the original exhibit is basically a pet fantasy world, filled with realistic pets (and dragons and unicorns), plus everything kids need to care for them. The centerpiece is CCM's "Fantasy Pet," a rainbow-colored amalgamation of animals that kids can pet, groom and even climb on.
In addition, kids can pretend to be the pets themselves, resting in an oversized doggie bed or climbing on a kitty condo.
The exhibit was designed with Jemma Jacobsen, 8, of Hammond, Ind., who created artwork throughout.
And since pets are such an important decision for parents, the exhibit also includes information on what to think about when it comes to pet ownership: which animals make good pets, how much they cost, what to consider about your home, and most importantly, how much kids can help.
"It's really helping families understand what's a realistic expectation of every member of the family when you have a pet and what's developmentally appropriate," Farrington says.
The museum is partnering with the anti-cruelty society to sponsor a pet meet-and-greet every Tuesday to provide an "animal fix" for families who aren't quite ready.
"Everybody's going to have fun," Farrington says. "We know our visitors are going to love it."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.