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Dutchess_III's avatar

How do you explain evolution to a 5 year old?

Asked by Dutchess_III (39689points) 4 weeks ago

The other day my granddaughter said something to me about us being monkeys.
I said, “Well, we’re primates.” Then I showed her different primates and in what ways they’re similar to us, or we to them.
Then she asked, “Did we come from monkeys?”
“Well, no….”
Then she said, “Can a bear turn into a human?”
“Um..no. And neither can a monkey.”
“Why not?”
I am still searching for ways to explain this in a way she can kind of understand. It involves concepts that many adults can’t conceive of much less a kindergartner. Things like the immensity of time, and so subtle genetic mutations…the very beginning of life.

Any suggestions for those inquiring minds?
It makes me laugh to think that she could easily accept “magic” as a viable answer, though! It’d be a whole lot easier to just fall back on that.

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20 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I bet there are children’s books about evolution.

Maybe just explain that natural selection is when a mommy and daddy choose each other to make a baby. They might like blonde hair or blue eyes and so those features get passed down to the babies. Same with being taller or strong or smart. Maybe during certain bad times the physically taller and stronger do better so then the species has many more strong animals in it, because they survive. Or, maybe other bad times smarts are more important and they survive.

Sometimes in nature there is a random mutation, like an animal might be better able to see at night, and that helps him survive. Or, they have thumbs, and that helps them survive. Or, their digestive track is able to get nutrition better. The ones in the group with the useful mutations make babies and the species grows in that direction with those traits.

On some islands, like the Galapagos, there are animals there that don’t exist anywhere else because over centuries they were very isolated from other parts of the world.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m not a parent so I’m not qualified to answer, but I’d show her the March of Progress and see if she has any questions after that. When I was young it worked for me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_of_Progress

Dutchess_III's avatar

You’re qualified to answer @KNOWITALL! That’s a good illustration.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This reminds me of the time when my oldest was 6 and she said, “What would happen if a bear had a chicken and a chicken had a bear?”
I said, “You’d have a dead chicken and a frustrated bear!”
Of course, what it was really leading up to was the birds and bees discussion. I had just had her baby sister.
She was disgusted!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Species Life levels up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ll play the part of the 5 year old.

“What does ‘level up’ mean?”

MrGrimm888's avatar

I would think that some basic understanding of reproduction, would be required to understand evolution. You might could explain some basics of evolution, but would run into some obstacles if the child had many questions.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Since it isn’t my child I hesitate to explain the reproduction cycle, but she may already know it. I know my son would tell her straight. Not so sure about my DIL. She’s a little nutty.

Caravanfan's avatar

Here is an awesome book written for children. Wonderfully illustrated. I highly recommend it.

http://www.danielloxton.com/evolution/

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ordered. Thank you so much! I also got a Dino colouring book for her 4 year old brother. He LOVES dinosaurs!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Dutchess_III Ok… Don’t talk back to me… Go to your room!

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! I’m not talking back! What does “level up” mean?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Dutchess_III To grow and improve over a long time.

kritiper's avatar

With a picture book.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Dutchess_III I second @KNOWITALL s March of Progress

flutherother's avatar

I would always answer her individual questions but evolution is difficult for adults to understand never mind five year olds. Any attempt to explain it will just confuse them.

joeschmo's avatar

@duchess level up refers to gaming, when the player’s character “grows or strengthens”. Here, it was used quite cleverly with “life”.

LostInParadise's avatar

I would be curious to see the book that was recommended; My gut instinct is that evolution is beyond the understanding of a five year old. This article, which I have likely linked to before because it is a favorite of mine, explains why the concept of evolution is so difficult to understand, especially for children.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I got my book today! And, by chance, the girls came over. They’re only 5 and 7 and it a great book, but still a little over their head. Zoey can’t get past the idea that things have to happen in one lifetime (hers.) And I understand that, completely.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@LostInParadise Thank you. It makes me laugh when believers scoff at evolution as impossible and ridiculous, but accept the idea that some god created them in an instant out of dirt. Magic. It is so illogical. But I can see how it’s a lot easier to believe in that.

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