Evolution IS a hard concept to explain to children. I once thought I
had done a fabulous job with a 7-year old, explaining the whole ape to
human thing, and he went off seemingly content.
Then the next day he came to me and said, "I have a question about
Him: "You know you said we used to be monkey's right?"
Him: "How come I don't remember when I was a monkey?"
Anyway, I think the problem is they really can't comprehend
evolutionary time. Everything you say to a 6 or 7 year-old gets
related to their own lifetime. It takes a more mature brain to get
The most success I have had in getting the concept across is to keep
coming back to natural selection. How some things live and some things
don't. And the things that live have babies just like themselves so
eventually everything looks like them.
You can play a game with colored jelly beans or M&M's to illustrate
this point. Use a colored paper background, a colored carpet or best
of all, the green lawn. Talk about how there are many different
colored jelly-bean-people hiding in the grass and a predator wants to
fly down and eat them. Spread out the jelly beans and have the child
pretend to be a predator catching the ones that are the easiest to
see in a short period of time. Then collect the remaining ones and
discuss how the green ones and the black ones "survived" and now there
will only be green and black jellybean babies at least until the
The best online games that I have found that reiterate this point are
on the BBC website here
BBC WALKING WITH BEASTS EVOLUTION GAMES
The Evolution Game on the above site is probably a bit advanced for a
6-year old, but with your help it might be valuable. The "Shoot the
Fish" games are more interactive and fun. The premise of the Fish
games is that you will selectively shoot certain color fish based on
how easy they are to see. For a 6-year-old you will have to provide a
simplified explanation as to why the results come the way they do in
each of the scenarios.
PBS also provides an interactive evolution game here
PBS NOVA - Evolution in Action
Launch the game then read the instructions. Again, various colored
creatures are reproducing and you control the color of their
background. Those easiest to spot are dying off, while those that are
Also related to hiding and camouflage, the Discovery Channel's, "Hide
a Beast" game is suited to 6-year olds
"Mix and match color schemes, patterns and habitats to see how
camouflage works best for one predator species and one prey species.
Can you make these beasts disappear into their habitats?"
HIDE A BEAST
SEEING THROUGH CAMOUFLAGE
As far as human evolution goes, this site has an interesting Shockwave
graphic that allows you to slide the slider through time and the
various versions of human ancestors appear on the screen.
HUMAN EVOLUTION ACTIVITY
I'm not sure how useful this site will be. It has two natural
selection type games, but I found them confusing. (Of course I'm
terrible about reading directions). Maybe you can make head or tail
out of them and explain them to your 6-year old
and to me. :-)
INTERACTIVE GAMES - SELECTION
OTHER RESOURCES ---
PBS - GAMES AND DIVERSIONS
PBS HUMAN EVOLUTION
Hope these resources help you to clarify things with your 6-year old.
As I said, it is a tough concept to get across, but the more you keep
repeating the lesson in all of its various forms, and the older the
child gets, the more she will understand it.
Best of luck to you and thank you for your question! And, of course,
you know the drill -- if you need anything more, just yell. :-)
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