Animal Life Cycles: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is a Life Cycle?
  • 0:41 Birth
  • 1:07 Young
  • 1:58 Reproduction
  • 2:18 Death
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

What do humans, fish, and dragonflies have in common? They all go through a life cycle! Life cycles can be very different from animal to animal. This lesson describes the basic stages of life cycles, while noting some differences between animals.

What is a Life Cycle?

Mary was assigned a school project to make a family tree. Her mom helped her go through some photos to see who has been in her family. This gave her a good idea of the cycle of life because some people had died before she had even been born!

A life cycle refers to the stages a living thing goes through from birth to death. The number of stages and the length of the life cycle depends on the species, or type, of animal, and every animal in the same species goes through the same stages. For example, a monarch butterfly has four stages in its life cycle and only lives for a few weeks. But an elephant's life cycle has three stages and lasts up to 70 years.

This is just one example of a life cycle. All animals within a species have the same life cycle.
Drawing the life cycle of a frog


Under each relative's picture, Mary put the date when they were born. In the animal world, most of them begin life inside an egg, a protective shell around the unborn animal. Birds, fish, and reptiles all lay eggs to begin the life cycle. Only a small number of animals, the mammals, have live births, meaning the baby is born right from the mother's body. As soon as an animal is born, it may be looked after by both parents or just one parent, often the mother.

Many animals hatch from eggs, much like this turtle.
Picture of a turtle hatching out of an egg


While looking through the photos, Mary saw many pictures of her relatives as children. There are many different names for this stage, but in general, this young stage, or childhood stage, is when animals do the most growing and developing and focus on maintaining a supply of food, water, and shelter. Mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds have one stage of childhood where they look like a smaller version of an adult.

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