Help your child understand how animals use camouflage to hide.
photographs of modern animals that use camouflage to survive (from library books, or printed from Internet), such as: lion, rabbit, polar bears, turtles, beetles.
old bed sheet (small), or pillow case, that children can paint, and decorate with natural objects
washable paint (safe for painting on clothes and face)
leaves and other natural objects
PREPARATION: Cut out a hole in the middle of the bed sheet, big enough for a child’s head to fit through easily.
Ask your child to think of some ways that animals avoid being eaten by other animals in the wild. Some answers might be: running away, flying away, having a hard shell, having a poisonous bite, and so on. Explain that some animals also use a survival trick called “camouflage.” Camouflage means having skin, feathers, or fur that match the color of their natural surroundings (or “habitat”). Show photographs of some animals that blend amazingly well into their surroundings, such as the walking stick insect or cryptic frog, leaf-mimic katydid, mimic octopus, zebras etc.
Show the video clip, above, from “Dinosaur Camouflage” in which a dinosaur known as Lesothosaurus uses its protective coloring to hide from other animals that would want to eat it.
Have your child explore a local natural area – such as a nearby forest or perhaps an area in a backyard. Have her find examples of animals that use camouflage to help them hide. For example, she might find birds, beetles, turtles, squirrels, or rabbits. Encourage her to be very quiet and still when observing wild creatures. Remind her that it sometimes takes time and patience to find animals that are trying to hide from predators.
Have your child use a small notebook with colored pencils to capture the colors of a particular small area. Ask your child to identify colors and patterns that an animal would need to blend into this environment. (Optional: If your child has access to a camera, he can use it to help document the animals he finds.)
Have your child pick a particular area in the woods. What colors does he see most? Have your child paint the old bed sheet so that the colors he selects blend into the environment. Have her avoid using any colors that might make them stand out. Have your child use masking tape to attach the old leaves to the sheet for added texture.
If possible, take a photograph of your child wearing the camouflage cloak in the environment it was designed to match.
Take It Further
Discuss the colors of some of the characters in Dinosaur Train. You might ask your child if T. rexes like Buddy were really orange and blue. Who knows? No people were around to see these animal species when they were alive. While many animals today blend into their surroundings, some animals, such as some kinds of snakes or frogs, have colors that make them stand out against their environment. It’s their way of telling potential predators, “Back off!”