Animal Classification: Reptiles

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11360

Are you afraid of snakes or grossed out by lizards? Would you like to carry your house on your back? Reptiles are really pretty cool! Watch a neat video, play an online game and create a reptile page!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What do all the animals below have in common?

All the pictures above show images of reptiles.

You may have noticed that they all have scaly, rough skin , unusual eyes, or unique colors.

In this lesson, you will learn about ways to classify animals that are reptiles. In the last of the Related Lessons, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned ways to identify mammals. Tell a parent or teacher one way you can identify a mammal.

In case you forgot, mammals are warm-blooded, they have a backbone, they have fur or hair, and they give birth to live babies.


Reptiles are very different from mammals. Continue reading to learn ways to classify animals as reptiles!

There are four types of reptiles. Turtles, snakes, alligators and crocodiles, and lizards are all reptiles. They all have similar characteristics.

  • Did you know the word reptile means creeping or crawling animal?
  • Do you think reptiles creep and crawl? Why or why not?

Share your answer with a parent or teacher.

  • Have you seen any of the animals in the pictures below?

Maybe you have a pet turtle, lizard, or even a pet snake! Perhaps you saw one of these animals in the wild or at the zoo. Share your story with your parent or teacher.

  • What do you notice about the animals pictured above?
  • What is their skin like?

Let your parent or teacher know what you think (or know) it would feel like to touch a reptile.

  • Did you say their skin has scales?

Excellent! Reptiles do not have fur or hair like mammals do. They have scales instead of fur. Their scaly skin is very dry, too!

Check out the pictures of scales below.

  • Do you notice a pattern in the scales or a certain shape?

Share your ideas about what you see with your parent or teacher.

Unlike warm-blooded mammals like you and me, reptiles are cold-blooded. This makes them much different from us when it comes to adapting to the temperature of the environment. The temperature inside a reptile's body is affected by its environment.

For example, you may see a lizard or snake resting in the sunlight. If you have a reptile as a pet, you may know that they need a heat source, like a lamp or a heated rock. These are ways reptiles warm their cold body.

Reptiles constantly need to regulate their body temperature to keep it between 75° and 80° Fahrenheit. When they get too cold, they bask in the sun; if, on the other hand, they get too hot, they go off into the shade or find a nearby water source for a quick dip.

  • Did you know that being too cold can make a reptile slow?

Think about how you feel when you're too hot or too cold. Tell your parent or teacher how you feel after playing outside in the hot sun or freezing cold. Fortunately, you don't have the issue of regulating your own body temperature, and you have the added advantage of wearing weather-appropriate clothes! Imagine how those reptiles must feel!

Being at an ideal temperature allows reptiles to carry out their daily routines at the perfect pace. Take a look at all the sunbathing reptiles:

When you see a giant alligator or lizard, it's hard to imagine that it was ever a tiny baby, but it was, just like you and I once were. However, that giant crocodile wasn't born from its mother the same way we were; it hatched from an egg.

baby crocodiles hatching from eggs

Reptiles reproduce by laying eggs. They do not give birth to live babies like mammals do. The eggs reptiles lay have hard shells. This helps prevent the eggs from breaking.

  • Did you know sea turtles will lay over 200 eggs per year?

Take a look at the sea turtle eggs pictured on the right. Turtles bury their eggs in the sand to protect them from predators.

  • Do you see all the eggs hidden in the sand?

Tell a parent or teacher why you think sea turtles lay so many eggs.

sea turtle nest in the sand

Reptiles are like mammals because they are vertebrates, too! They have backbones just like mammals.

  • Can you see the snake's long backbone?

Point out the backbone in the picture below:

snake skeleton

Image by dbking, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY 2.0 license.

Here is where things get a little tricky. Reptiles have either four legs or no legs. Turtles, alligators, crocodiles, and lizards have four legs, while snakes don't have any legs at all.

lizard and snake

Great job! Tell a parent or teacher three things you learned about reptiles before you move on to the next section.

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