Three-Toed Sloth 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.

Three-toed sloths are animals that live in trees and move very slowly. This lesson will teach you about three-toed sloths, where they live, what they eat, and some other neat facts about this animal.

What are Three-Toed Sloths?

While walking through a tropical forest, you think you see some leaves high up in a tree moving. You try to get a closer look but can't see anything. You start to walk on, but see just a bit of movement again. So you stare. At first, all you see are leaves but finally, it moves again and you can see there's an animal hanging on a tree limb. You have found a three-toed sloth!

Three-toed sloths are mammals that move very slowly, live in the trees of tropical forests, and have three toes on each foot.

But a three-toed sloth's toes aren't like the toes on your foot. They are three very long claws on each foot that help them hang on to the tree branches where they spend most of their time.

Three-toed sloth
Three-toed sloth

Just like there are different kinds of dogs, there are different kinds of three-toed sloths. They are:

  • Brown-throated sloth
  • Pale-throated sloth
  • Maned sloth
  • Pygmy three-toed sloth

All About the Three-Toed Sloth

Three-toed sloths also have an extra bone in their neck that lets them turn their head 270 degrees from far left to far right. You can only turn yours about 140 degrees from left to right!

They generally weigh almost 9 pounds, which is almost the same as a gallon of skim milk.

Sloths are the slowest mammals on the planet and only move about .15 miles per hour. When you go out for a walk, you're about 25 times faster than a three-toed sloth!

Because three-toed sloths are so slow, algae develops on their fur and gives it a green tone. That helps them blend in with the tree leaves and hide from enemies.

Three-toed sloth with green algae on its fur
Three-toed sloth with green algae on its fur

Though you wouldn't want bugs living in your hair, their fur also makes a great home for the beetles, moths, and cockroaches that sometimes live in it!

Home and Diet of the Three-Toed Sloth

In the wild, three-toed sloths live in Central and South America where it's warm. Their body temperature is lower than yours, so they need a warmer climate to survive.

To control the temperature of their bodies, three-toed sloths move into a sunny spot when they are cold and into the shade when they get too warm.

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