Walk, Swim or Fly

The children will investigate how different animals move.

Lesson Objective

The children will investigate and predict how an animal moves by observing its physical attributes.


What You'll Need

  • Pictures of various animals from around the world: penguins, camels, ostriches, bears, iguanas, gorillas, dolphins, owls, whales, crocodiles, and so on (see Lesson Tips)
  • Labels for sorting animals: “walk,” “swim,” and “fly”

What To Do

  1. Display the animal pictures.
  2. Tell children that they are going to explore how the animals move.
  3. Invite one child at a time to choose an animal picture and to use their words to tell (or demonstrate) how they think it moves.
  4. Have children tell what it is about the animal that allows it to move this way (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  5. Invite the class to move like this animal moves.
  6. Ask the children to categorize each animal picture under one of these categories: walk, swim, or fly.
  7. Some children may notice that a particular animal can move in more than one way. A penguin, for example, can walk and swim. Allow the child to place the animal where they think it best fits or to write the name of the animal under the additional label. Talk about animals that can move in more than one way.
  8. Continue inviting children, in turns, to choose an animal picture, and continue through Steps 4–7, as above.
  9. Once the animals are sorted, discuss what it is that the animals under the same label have in common.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me some of the ways that animals can move.
  • Describe what it is about this animal that helps it to move (legs, fins, flippers, wings, etc.).
  • Tell me some other animals you know that move like this.
  • Explain how these animals move in different ways.
  • Tell me some animals that can move in more than one way.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Throughout the day, as the class moves from one activity to another, challenge children to waddle like a penguin, hop like a frog, swim like a fish, and so forth.
  • Encourage vocabulary by asking children to describe the movements of particular animals; then, write those words down and include them in the sorting activity.
  • Provide pictures of animals at the discovery or science table with the labels for sorting.
  • Encourage children to sort the animals in different ways—by size, shape, or habitat.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child given an opportunity to choose an animal picture and move like the animal?
  • Could children describe the ways in which a particular animal moves?
  • Could children describe what parts of the animal help it to move the way it does?
  • Could children tell some different ways that animals move?
  • Could children name some animals that can move in more than one way?  


Did You Know?

There are many different ways for animals to get from place to place. Some animals walk or run, some swim, and some fly. Some animals can move in more than one way. Animals move for many different reasons. Animals move to find food, to seek shelter, and to escape predators. In order for animals to move, they need energy—which they get from food.

Animal bodies are designed to support the way they move. For instance, animals that walk or run usually have four legs. Birds have wings to fly and legs for standing or hopping. Their bodies are designed to have a smooth, even shape with little resistance to air currents. Animals that swim have flippers to help them move. They usually have torpedo-shaped bodies to help them glide through the water.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • animal – a living creature that is not a plant or a human.
  • walk – to move your body by taking steps.
  • swim – to move through water by moving parts of the body.
  • fly – to move through the air by means of wings.
  • movement – a motion or way of changing places.
  • investigate – to look at closely so as to get information and learn the facts.

Lesson Tips

  • Search online for printable pictures of a variety of animals.
  • There are a wide variety of creative movement audio recordings available that include activities for moving like the animals do. This would be a fun movement activity to include at the conclusion of the lesson.


  • Swing, Slither, or Swim: A Book About Animal Movements by Patricia M. Stockland
  • Do Whales Have Wings? A Book About Animal Bodies by Michael Dahl
  • From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
  • Do Goldfish Gallop? A Book About Animal Movement by Michael Dahl

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS