This article discusses animal classification for children, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, and insects.

Animals are living things and they need air, food and water to survive. They can grow, move on their own, respond to changes around them, reproduce and die. Animals differ in many ways such as their outer coverings, number of legs, the way they reproduce, what they eat and whether they are cold-blooded or warm-blooded.

Animals can be classified into carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. Carnivores eat only other animals for food, herbivores eat only plants for food, and omnivores eat both plants and other animals.

Classification of Animals for KidsCredit: can also be classified into different groups according to their characteristics. Six of these groups are:

  1. Mammals
  2. Amphibians
  3. Reptiles
  4. Fish
  5. Birds
  6. Insects

Animal classification for kids - mammals

Mammals are warm-blooded animals that give birth to young alive. Mammals have fur or hair as their outer covering which can also help keep them warm. Female mammals produce milk for their young.

Mammals can be carnivores, herbivores of omnivores. Examples of mammals that eat only animals are tigers and lions. Mammals which are herbivores include giraffes, elephants, and deer. Mammals which are omnivores are humans (yes, we are mammals too!), hamsters, and raccoons.

Special Mammals

Not all mammals give birth to their young alive. The Spiny Anteater and the Duck-billed Platypus are two special mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to their young. Other than egg-laying, they are similar to other mammals with their outer covering of fur, are warm-blooded, and produce milk for their young.

Duck-billed platypusCredit: By Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) (The Wonderful Paleo Art of Heinrich Harder) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Animal classification for kids - amphibians

Amphibians are cold-blooded animals that lay eggs. Amphibians have a layer of moist and slimy skin as their outer covering. A very special characteristic of amphibians is that they can live on both land and water. Amphibians have skin that allow water to pass through so they can breathe through their skin in the water without having to surface for air. Although young amphibians have gills which let them breathe in water anyway, adult amphibians can use their ability to breathe through skin to stay underwater for a longer time.

A common example of amphibian is the frog. The young of frogs, tadpoles, live in water at first and they breathe through gills. As they grow, their lungs develop and they become able to leave the water. As adults, frogs can live on both land and in water and they either breathe through their lungs or their skin.

Other examples of amphibians are toads and salamanders.

AmphibiansCredit: By Various; see each photo [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC-BY-SA-2.5 (, CC-BY-SA-2.0 (

Animal classification for kids - reptiles

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals that lay eggs. They have scales as an outer covering, which provides protection for the animals. Reptiles breathe through their lungs. They live on land or in water.

The young of a reptile are usually left to fend for themselves.

Examples of reptiles are crocodiles, snakes and lizards.

Reptiles - crocodileCredit: By Kmanoj (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Animal classification for kids - fish

Fish are cold-blooded animals that lay eggs. Like the reptiles, they have scales as an outer covering that provides protection for the animals. Fish breathe through their gills and they also have fins which help them swim. Other than that, they also have streamlined bodies to allow them to swim in the water easily. All fish live in water.

Examples of fish are salmon, bass and tuna.

Are dolphins and whales fish?

Many seem to think that dolphins and whales are fish. However, both these animals are actually mammals because they do not lay eggs – they give birth to their young alive. They also have lungs and need to come up to the surface of water to breathe in air. Unlike fish, dolphins and whales are also warm-blooded.

Special fish

There is also a special type of fish. Instead of laying eggs, it gives birth to its young alive just like mammals. An example of a fish that gives birth to its young alive is the guppy. Besides guppies, sharks are another fish that give birth to their young alive. However, not all sharks do this. About 40% of sharks lay eggs.

Fish - guppiesCredit: By Silvana Gericke ( (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Animal classification for kids - Birds

Birds are warm-blooded animals that lay eggs. They have feathers as an outer covering, which helps to keep the birds warm and help them fly. The feathers can also allow the bird to look attractive to their mates. An obvious example would be the male peacock.

Birds breathe through their lungs. They have two legs, and a beak.

Examples of birds are parrots, hummingbirds and eagles.

Special Birds

Although most birds can fly, some birds have wings that are not adapted for flying. Penguins, for example, have wings that are better for swimming and they cannot fly. Other birds that are unable to fly are the ostrich and emu.

Is the bat a bird?

Although a bat has wings and can fly, it is actually not a bird but a mammal. Bats have hair instead of feathers and give birth to their young alive instead of laying eggs.

Birds - ostriches can't flyCredit: By Stig Nygaard from Copenhagen, Denmark (Ostrich) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Classification of animals for kids - insects

Insects have three pairs of legs, three body parts and a pair of feelers. The three body parts are head, thorax and abdomen. Insects breathe using holes called breathing tubes located on both sides of their thorax and abdomen and they either live on land or in water. Many insects have wings and can fly.

Insects that look like plants

Some insects are able to camouflage themselves to look like parts of plants to avoid predators. Stick insects are long, thin and brown and look like sticks. Leaf insects are green and may contain patterns that make them look like leaves.

Examples of insects that live on land are ants, bees, butterflies.

Examples of insects that live in the water are mosquito larva, water beetle and dragonfly nymph.

Are spiders insects?

Many people think that spiders are insects. However, spiders are classified in a group called arachnids. Spiders are not insects because they have only two body parts instead of three like insects and four pairs of legs instead of three pairs of legs. 

Insects - leaf insectCredit: By Ushaeugene (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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