Animal Lesson for Kids: Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Mary Grace Miller

Mary Grace has taught first grade for 8 years and has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and is licensed in ESL.

You have seen animals before, but have you ever wondered what makes something an animal? Are humans animals? This lesson will teach you about the definition and characteristics of animals, as well as some types of animals.

What Are Animals?

Lions, goldfish, turtles, frogs...what do they all have in common? They're animals! But what makes something an animal?

The first characteristic, or property, that makes an animal unique is that they are all multicellular, which means they are made up of more than one tiny part called a cell. Animals are also eukaryotes, which means that all of their cells have a central part called a nucleus. And animals are motile, which is just a fancy word that means they can move on their own. This is different from plants, which can't move without help.

Types of Animals

There are lots of different types of animals, and they are grouped together mostly by the way they look, move, and reproduce. Let's take a look at just a few types of animals!


Did you know that humans are mammals? Mammals are animals that have hair or fur, have live babies instead of laying eggs, and feed their babies milk from the mother. Mammals are also warm-blooded, which means they make their own heat.

This pet beagle is a mammal you might see every day.

Some other mammals you might see are dogs, cats, and squirrels.


Reptiles are animals that are cold-blooded, which means that they do not make their own heat. This is why you might see a snake or lizard laying in the sun to warm up! Reptiles also lay eggs and have scales on their bodies.

Can you find the scales on the body of this snake?

Some reptiles you might know are turtles, snakes, and lizards like iguanas and geckos.


Did you know that all birds have wings, but not all birds can fly? Birds like penguins are called flightless birds.

Penguins have wings but cannot fly.

All birds have feathers and a backbone, and they can make their own heat, so they are warm-blooded. Birds can be really tiny like the hummingbird, or huge like the ostrich, which is 9 feet tall. That's taller than an adult human!

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