The easiest way to introduce a child to the system we use to classify various groups of animals is to start by learning about body coverings with fur, feather and scales activities.
This post will only cover animals that have fur, feathers and scales but you can add the others (exoskeleton and skin) if and when you feel your child is ready.
Here are some simple and fun body covering activities to get your child familiar with fur, feathers and scales.
Using real animal materials
To give your child the best ability to understand body coverings, it is best if you can use real animal materials.
There may be laws in your country governing the use of wildlife and their products (feathers, fur and scales).
Please be sure you obtain them through legal means by check with zoos and your local wildlife authority. Otherwise, I suspect it will be easier for most of you to go with the substitutes below.
Substitute animal products
- Feathers – Can be easily bought from your local craft shop these days, or found on the ground at your local park.
- Hair/fur – Use your own hair or the fur of your dog after they’ve had a haircut (that’s what we did!). You could even use one of your child’s stuffed toys!
- Scales – Buy imitation snake skin from your local fabric shop, or use your replica snake handbag or purse. You could also just use a snake toy that has imitation scales for the rubbing activity too.
Fur, Feather, Scales Activities
While enjoying the following activities together, here are some helpful prompting questions to ask your child:
- How they feel?
- Are they rough or smooth, soft or hard?
- What do you find interesting about each type of body covering?
- How do you think the body covering helps the animals?
- Which body covering do we have?
Animal Crayon Rubbings
Using the naturally cast off body covering of animals can make a great rubbing activity.
See what different types of patterns that were created when your child places paper over each material and colours over the paper with crayons. You can download a fun printable for this activity below.
Tactile fur, feathers, scales activity
Using three tissue boxes, create a tactile fur, feathers and scale activity. Using touch, ask your child to guess the animals that the body covering belongs to. Bird, mammal, or reptile!
Fur, feathers and scales collage
Use the same printable above to match the body covering to the animal and let your child paste the body covering onto the printable.
Looking at live animals
It’s important to take every opportunity to develop a child’s understanding of the basic body coverings using real animals too. You can do this by talking about the different body coverings on live animals, looking at pictures or going to the zoo. Here’s some wonderful ways to get the most out of your zoo visit.
Children can amuse themselves with these fun activities and they probably don’t even realise they are building their knowledge of basic animal classification.
Now that your children have enjoyed these fur, feathers and scales activities , their ready to move onto basic animal classification.