This chapter discusses the fascination of young children with animals; vertebrates and invertebrates. The information has been derived from research, observations and, in particular, the analysis of children’s drawings. Many formal science curricula for young children expect children to have some knowledge of animals when they begin school, so it is important to know what children already understand and how they can develop their knowledge. Listening to them can yield much information, the use of drawings too is a useful technique in analysis. The analyses discussed in this chapter result from children’s drawings of vertebrates, themselves, birds, fish, and invertebrates, namely crabs, earthworms and snails, as well as external views of insects.

Drawings were analysed and scored using a rubric which has been adapted for use with invertebrates based on the level of occurrence of organ systems. As children mature, they produce more realistic drawings, but gradually learn the internal organs of an organism and even the systems of which organs are a part. Young children use their understanding of themselves as a template or reference point for the structure or anatomy of other animals, internal and external, and for physiology and discussing behaviours and needs. In some organisms, the influence of popular culture and pictorial fiction books may also be identified.