Types of Clouds: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: April DeBord

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

When you look up at the sky, you may notice that some clouds look very different from others. Clouds come in a variety of forms, and we will explore the different types of clouds in this lesson.

Types of Clouds

Have you ever spent an afternoon looking up at the blue sky and finding shapes in the clouds? Sometimes you see a dark cloud shaped like a castle, or you might see a white cloud that resembles your dog Fluffy. But have you ever noticed that some clouds look like cotton and others are just big sheets of gray? Well, there are actually several different types of clouds.

Cloud Chart

Meteorologists are scientists who study the weather, including clouds. While there are a wide variety of different cloud formations out there, meteorologists have identified 4 main types of clouds:

  • Cumulus
  • Stratus
  • Alto
  • Cirrus

Let's explore these four main types of clouds!

Cumulus Clouds

Those fluffy clouds that look like puffs of white cotton candy are called cumulus clouds. They look very light, like if you were big enough, you could blow them away with your breath. But the average cumulus cloud actually weighs 1.1 million pounds!

Cumulus clouds also seem very close to the ground, almost like you could reach out and touch them. That's because they are pretty close to Earth--they are known as low-level clouds.

Sometimes, people call them 'fair-weather clouds' because they often come with good weather when they look like white puffs. But when these clouds start to grow upward and start looking tall like heads of cauliflower, they become cumulonimbus clouds. This often means a thunderstorm is coming your way.

Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds look like a flat sheet, kind of like a blanket hovering in the sky overhead. They may be in the same place for a few days. Stratus clouds often mean that there will be a steady drizzle or rain. Like cumulus clouds, stratus clouds are considered low-level clouds.

If you see low, gray sheets of cloud that are fluffy too, these are called stratocumulus clouds. It is rare to have rain with stratocumulus clouds, even though they cover the whole sky.

Alto Clouds

Alto clouds are mid-level clouds located above cumulus and stratus clouds. There are two basic kinds of alto clouds: altostratus and altocumulus. Both of these are made up mostly of water droplets and come with rain or snow.

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