When you were out together, have you and your child ever been startled by
a bird that seemed to suddenly appear out of the brush? Some birds, insects,
and other animals have body colors and patterns that make them appear to
blend in to their surroundings. You can help your child learn more about
protective coloration in animals by exploring the animals around your home
and neighborhood. You can also have fun together playing the game “Now
You See Me, Now You Don’t!”
Camouflage is an adaptation that helps many animals avoid detection by predators
or prey because it allows them to blend in to their natural environments.
Camouflage means that colors, designs, or patterns on an animal’s
body or the shapes of its body parts are similar to the colors, designs,
patterns, or shapes in the background. For example, a walking stick insect
is colored and shaped like a stick.
Identifying patterns and relationships; developing
ideas; communicating and collaborating
3-6 year olds
Observing Animals Outside
Take It Further
When you and your child are outdoors, look for animals that use camouflage.
In grass, you may find a variety of insects and small creatures like grasshoppers,
praying mantises, caterpillars, snails, and butterflies. In the dirt, you
may find salamanders and worms. If there is a wilder area, you may be able
to observe larger animals that use camouflage like toads and frogs, many
kinds of turtles, rabbits, or even deer. If you live in an urban area, use
the resources below for help finding animals to observe.
When your child has friends over, invite them all to play a game of hide-and-seek
in an enclosed area. Once everyone has had a turn as seeker, talk about
what made it easy or hard to find someone. Ask questions like “Did
the color of the clothes you were wearing make a difference?” and
make comments like “I don’t think I would have noticed you except
I saw your red shirt sticking out.”
What You Need:
- Spoons for digging
- Small plastic containers for holding insects or other small animals
Ask your child to think about how familiar animals might hide by asking,
for example, "What are some ways a turtle could hide?" Invite him to go
outside with you to look for animals that hide. Remind him that he will
have to look very closely because some of them may be very hard to see.
Take your child on a walk around your home or neighborhood. Invite him to
look in the grass for caterpillars, grasshoppers, and other insects. When
your child finds one, encourage him to look at it closely and notice details
like shape, color, and any markings it has on its body. Ask questions like
"What is it doing in the grass or on the leaf?" and "Does it look like it's
trying to hide?" Introduce the word "camouflage" if you like, but don't
expect your child to use it yet. "camouflage" if you like, but don't expect
your child to use it yet.
Play a camouflage game with your child called "Now You See Me, Now You Don't!"
The game has 2 parts that can be played separately or together. In Part
1, you hide the objects and your child finds them. In Part 2, your child
hides the objects from you; part 2 is more difficult. Play the game outdoors
at a park or in a meadow and, for added fun, encourage your child to invite
a friend or two to join in. Before you play, you will need to prepare some
What You Need:
- Construction paper in different shades of colors in nature (for example,
light and dark green and brown) and in bright colors (for example, yellow,
red, blue, pink, yellow)
- Scissors and tape
- Paper or cloth bags
- Treats for prizes
Now You See Me, Now You Donít! (Part 1)
- Cut some simple worm shapes out of the different colored construction
paper. Cut enough so you have at least 5 shapes of each color per child.
Count how many you have so you can keep track of them during the game.
- While your child is being supervised by another adult, place the "worms"
in various places around an outdoor area. Place the green worms and
the brown worms on natural surfaces where they will blend in or be camouflaged.
Place the blue and red worms (for example) on surfaces where they will
be easily seen.
- Give each child a bag for collecting worms. Show them what a "worm"
looks like, and invite them to be frogs or birds looking for and catching
the worms and putting them in the bag. The challenge is to find as many
worms as they can in 5 minutes. If you have a lot of children, have
them work in teams.
- After 5 minutes call the children in. Count the number of worms in
each bag by color. Talk about which colors were easier or harder to
find, and why, by asking "Which colors are easier to see in the grass
or on the dirt than other colors? Why do you think so?" and "Which colors
are harder to see?"
- If they didn't find all the colors, suggest they continue looking
until they do. Now that they know what they are looking for, and are
looking more closely, they are sure to find them. Provide a treat for
each of the "winners."
Now You See Me, Now You Don't! (Part 2)
More Information About Camouflage and Worms:
games for adults and children to play together
Animal camouflage photos
- Mention to your child that now it's his turn to hide the "worms" on
you. Invite him to use the green and brown worms from the previous game
or make his own animals to hide. Provide construction paper in different
shades of colors in nature, and help him draw and cut out some simple
- Show your child how to "hide" the animal shapes on outdoor surfaces
that match the animals' colors as closely as possible. Encourage him
to hide some independently while you supervise. Urge him to use all
available surfaces and encourage him to tape animal shapes to tree branches
or plants too.
- Once all the animal shapes are hidden, go look for them. This will
be easier or harder depending on what kinds of colors your child used,
what surfaces are available, and how well he hid them. Once you have
found as many animal shapes as possible, take them out of the bag and
count them with your child.
- Ask your child to help you find any remaining animal shapes. Maybe
he can give you clues like "There is a brown shape in the dirt by the
fence." Talk to him about how easy or hard it was for you to find different
animal shapes, depending on their colors and the colors of the background.
Ask "How did you decide where to hide the shapes so I wouldn't find
them?" and say, for example, "That dark green insect shape was hard
to find on that dark green bush!"
- Invite your child to camouflage the animal shapes even more by drawing
designs or patterns on them. For example, suggest that he draw long
lines on a green shape to hide it in the grass or small circles like
little rocks on a brown piece to hide in the dirt.
Take a family trip to the zoo and look at some big animals that use camouflage
like zebras and giraffes. These animals have regular stripes and patterns
on their bodies that blend into high grass and dappled light. Invite your
child to use My
to draw the animals he sees in different
Invite your child to use the worms and other animal shapes from the game
to make a book about camouflage. He can use construction paper for the background
and then decide what color animal to put on which background. Help him label
each picture "Now You See Me!" or "Now You Don't!"
An adaptation that allows a plant or animal
to remain undetected in its natural environment by blending in to the surroundings
through color, design, or shape of parts
Now You See Me . . .(The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About ThatTM)
by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Christopher Moroney. Random House (available
in January 2011).
The Mixed Up Chameleon
by Eric Carle: Harper Collins, 1974, 1985.
First Guide to Urban Wildlife
by Sarah B. Landry and Roger Tory Peterson. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
Take a City Nature Walk
by Jane Kirkland. Stillwater Publishing, 2005.