Animal Traits (Grades 3-5)

Why do animals look similar in some ways, but different in others? This activity helps you find out why!

notepad showing four drawn animals and their characteristics

Do you look like your parents? If you ask to see pictures of them around your age, you might be surprised at how much you look alike. Or by how different you look. But what causes this to happen? Click here for a quick video explaining the process and then look farther down this page for a fun activity where you can design your own animal!

What To Do

We’re going to draw four animals, two parents and two kids, and look at the traits they have in common.

  1. Start by drawing an animal. It can be a real animal or one you made up in your head! Make sure your animal has the following traits:
    • Ears
    • A tail
    • A color or pattern on its body (stripes, head is one color, body is another, etc.)
    • Another trait, such as horns, whiskers, scales, spikes, wings, etc.
  2. Now draw a mate for your first animal. Make sure this one has different traits from the first animal you drew.
    • Example: if your first animal had large ears, give the second one small ears. If your first animal is striped, make the second animal all one color, or give it a different pattern.
  3. Make a list next to each of these animals and describe their traits, such as:
    • Large ears
    • Long, bushy tail
    • Orange fur
    • Short whiskers
  4. Now we’re going to use our imaginations and pretend these two animals had a baby! What would this baby look like? We can use random numbers to show some possibilities!
  5. To figure out what traits the baby animal will have, roll dice once for each trait that you listed above (ears, tail, fur color, whiskers, whatever traits you used).
    • If you do not have dice, write the numbers 1 through 6 on small pieces of paper and draw them at random.
  6. If you roll or draw an even number, give the baby animal the trait from the first animal you drew. If it’s an odd number, give the baby animal a trait from the second animal you drew.
  7. Once you have all the traits selected for your baby animal, it’s time to see what they look like! Draw its picture, then repeat this experiment and compare the results to see how different or similar the two babies look!