Armadillo Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Mammals come in all shapes and sizes. Armadillos are a unique kind of mammal, and there are about 20 different species. This lesson will teach you about armadillos, their interesting characteristics and how they live.

What is an Armadillo?

The word armadillo means 'little armored one' in Spanish, which makes sense when you see it. An armadillo is an omnivorous mammal that looks like a cross between a roly-poly bug and an armored tank!

They may be brown, pink, black, gray, red or yellowish and range from 5 inches to almost 5 feet in length. In the wild, they usually live to be between 7 and 20 years old.

Armadillos have a hard, bony shell with separate bands in the middle. The number of bands they have depends on the species of armadillo. The nine-banded armadillo is the only one that lives in the United States and is even the official mammal of Texas!

Armadillo with Bony Bands of Armor

The bony bands that cover the armadillo's back are hard and bumpy, protecting it from predators. Only two kinds of armadillos (both three-banded) can actually curl up into a ball, like a roly-poly, but they all rely on those overlapping bony plates to protect them, like armored tanks with legs and a tail!

All that armor makes armadillos look slow and clumsy, but they can run at about 30 miles per hour! That is only slightly slower than a white-tailed deer! They are also good swimmers, can move along the bottoms of ponds and can hold their breath up to six minutes! They are experts at doing the dog paddle, too. Like humans, armadillos are mammals whose babies drink their mother's milk until they are old enough to go out and hunt insects at about two to four months.

What do Armadillos Eat?

Armadillos are omnivores because they eat insects and some plants. They have tiny eyes and terrible eyesight, so they use their super sensitive nose to sniff out a meal instead. They have large, strong claws to dig and tear at decaying wood and ant nests, looking for tasty treats. Some of their favorite meals include ants, termites, worms and beetles. They will also eat plants, fruit and the meat of dead animals if they find them.

Armadillo with Large Claws
Armadillo with Large Claws

Armadillos' teeth don't have enamel or roots and are shaped like pegs, which grind up insects and plants very well. Their teeth grow constantly, so a trip to the dentist isn't necessary to keep them healthy.

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