Every living thing on Earth goes through a life cycle. As any organism grows, it changes. In some organisms, the stages look very different; a flowering plant changes from a tiny seed into a plant, for example. Tadpoles look very different from an adult frog.
In mammals (such as humans), the young look like a smaller version of their parents.
Teach your children about the Life Cycles using our handy topic guide!
- Try our teaching ideas for the classic Eric Carle book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
- Grow a simple plant, such as a bean, in the class and carefully record its growth, by sketching or photographing daily.
- Use the ideas in this lesson plan and Powerpoint from the Young People’s Trust for the Environment to teach about life cycles in animals.
- Let children show their knowledge about the life cycle of any plant or animal using this worksheet from Scholastic.
- This lesson plan linking life cycles to farming is from the National Farmers’ Union.
- Label the parts of a flowing plant and organise the stages in a plant’s life cycle in this IWB activity from NGFL. (Requires Flash)
- Download our Life Cycles Mini pack for plenty of resources to teach this topic.
- Use our ‘life cycle of a butterfly’ resources with your children.
- This resource from the British Council and the BBC is designed to help young English learners to learn the vocabulary about the life cycle of a flowering plant.
- This resource from BBC Bitesize shows how humans change during their lifetime.
Life Cycles Knowledge Organiser
Members of Teaching Packs can download a comprehensive knowledge organiser to accompany this topic. It includes key information that your children can use for reference and research, along with a helpful glossary and examples of plant and animal life cycles.
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Life Cycles Facts
- Every animal and plant has a life cycle; that is a number of different stages they go through during their lifetime.
- The mayfly has the shortest life cycle of any animal. In some species the mayfly only lives for a few minutes in their adult form.
- Metamorphosis is the process by which some animals change from one form to another. These forms can look very different indeed. For example, butterflies start life as an egg, then hatch out into a caterpillar, before they form a chrysalis and finally emerge as a butterfly.
- The male part of a flower is the stamen, and the female part is the pistil.
- Pollinators, such as bees and other insects, carry pollen from one flower to another, so that the plants can reproduce.
The Life Cycle of Plants
This video from BBC Bitesize gives a brief introduction to plant life cycles.
Running time: 1:43
Plant Life Cycle of a Bean Seed
This super timelapse video shows a bean seed sprouting.
Running time: 0:38
The Tiny Seed
This video features a reading of The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle that younger children will enjoy.
Running time: 9:58
Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly
The complete life cycle of the Monarch butterfly from a tiny caterpillar hatching from an egg, through metamorphosis, to glorious adult butterfly.
Running time: 4:32
Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. Enchanting die-cuts illustrate the vital connections between the layers of an ecosystem in this magical picture book.
Follow the journey of a young boy and girl as they find out about how plants grow. This beautifully illustrated picture book explains why insects are important to plants, how seeds travel and why plants are important to us all.
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