Mammals Lesson for Kids: Definition, Facts & Characteristics

Instructor: April DeBord

April has taught Spanish and English as a Second Language and she has her Ed. S. in Foreign Language Education.

Mammals are a special kind of animal. There are more than 4,000 different kinds of mammals in the world. At the end of the lesson, you will be able to say, 'I can tell what a mammal is and I can give some examples.'

What Is a Mammal?

A mammal is a kind of animal, but not all animals are mammals. You can look at the picture below to see some examples of mammals.

mammal photo

To be a mammal, an animal must:

  • Have fur or hair
  • Drink their mom's milk when they are babies
  • Be warm-blooded
  • Have a backbone

Let's look a little closer at these requirements.

Mammals Have Fur or Hair

All mammals have hair on their bodies. You can even find hairy mammals that live in the ocean; whales and dolphins are a few examples.

Hair helps mammals protect themselves and get food more easily. For example, polar bears, and even some rabbits, are white to help them blend in with their surroundings. The fur helps the polar bear hunt for food, and it keeps the rabbit from becoming food for other animals.

Baby Mammals Drink Milk From Their Moms

One thing that all mammals have in common is they drink milk that comes from their mom when they are first born. Even human babies who drink formula instead of milk from their mother are mammals.

Not all mammals are born alive. For example, the duck-billed platypus lays eggs. However, every mammal drinks milk from its mom. All baby mammals need their parents to feed them, keep them safe and to teach them how to live their lives.

Mammals Are Warm-blooded

Warm-blooded means that a mammal can create their own body heat and cool down their own bodies. Think about a dog on a hot summer's day. The dog pants or sweats to keep its body temperature the same. During the winter, the dog grows more fur to keep itself warm. In the spring and summer, it sheds this extra hair.

Mammals do not depend on their environment to keep them warm or cool. This is why mammals can live in a variety of environments. Here are some examples:

  • Bats live in caves all over the world
  • Whales and dolphins live in the ocean
  • Camels live in the desert
  • Polar bears and seals live where it is cold

Wow, mammals are everywhere!

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