Teaching your youngster about the classification of animals can be enjoyable and educational. All animals belong in groups and doing projects and experiments to learn about how this is done can use so many venues, including your home, your backyard and the outdoors. The degree of difficulty of each experiment depends on the age and skill level of your child.
Pick the Plants, Spot the Animals
Recognizing the difference between an animal and a plant is the first step in classifying animals. Most children can tell the difference. But does your child know what the differences are? Wander around the house or backyard with your child and a notepad and pencil. Let him pick out animals and plants. Have him make a list of the differences between the maple tree in the yard and your dog. How do they look? What do they eat? What are the differences? What are the similarities? Have him make up rules that apply to animals and that apply to plants.
Bones or No Bones
Two major classifications of animals are vertebrates and invertebrates; skeleton and no skeleton. An experiment to show what an animal with a skeleton looks like can be done using an owl pellet. Owl pellets can be bought online. They are sterile and can be handled without worry of contamination. Depending on the age of your scientist, you might want to dissect the pellet yourself. You will need tweezers, magnifying glasses and optional plastic gloves. Inside you will find rodent bones that the owl has not been able to digest. Try to determine what each bone is.
Warm or Cold
Animals are also classified as cold-blooded or warm-blooded. Reptiles, who are cold-blooded, must continuously move from hot to cold spots to maintain a constant body temperature. To prepare for this experiment, take various temperatures around your yard -- under a shrub, on a rock, on the driveway. Ensure that you lay the thermometer down to take the temperature. You do not want air temperature. Between the lowest and highest temperatures you record, pick a 5 degree Fahrenheit range. For example, if your range was between 60 and 75 F, pick a smaller range of 65 to 70 F. Give the thermometer to your child and instruct her to keep the reading of the thermometer between 65 and 70 F. She must do this by moving the thermometer to different places around your yard. Afterward, talk about how much a reptile must move to keep its body temperature constant.
Eat Like a Bird
To help your child discover more about the bird class, this experiment will demonstrate how a bird eats without teeth. You’ll need 10 shelled sunflower seeds, a bowl, a plastic bag, a teaspoon of water and about a half cup of aquarium gravel. Place the seeds in the bowl and add the water. Let the seeds sit for 30 minutes. Have your child place the seeds in the plastic bag along with the aquarium gravel. Put the bag between you youngster’s palms and let her rub the seeds against the gravel, back and forth, for a minute. The seeds should be mush-like. Talk about how a bird's strong beak can remove seeds from their shells and crush the seeds.