Do you remember wondering as a child how things worked in your body? Where does our food go? Why do we blink or sneeze? How do we get the hiccups? The human body is truly a mystery to the child’s mind and having an in-depth human anatomy lesson is a great way to delve into these topics. Find out the answers to these questions and more by sticking around to the end.
Using Montessori materials is a wonderful tool for reinforcing the learning and expanding on a normally very difficult subject for children to grasp. Providing lessons like these for our children is what sews the seeds for future scientists, doctors, and teachers. Who knows? We may even create the next Dr. House!
Warm up activities
As preparation for this lesson, it would be a great idea to get your kids talking about the human body. Find out what they already know about it and its functions. Ask as many questions as you can, you just might be surprised by what they can teach you!
Also talking about what they would like to be when they grow up is a wonderful warm up. Jobs like a doctor, biologist or nurse all have something to do with the body and if your child has expressed a desire to become any of these, then having a chat about it before can encourage them to find out even more about the subject on their own.
There are a plethora of materials to utilize when tackling the human organs lesson. But I think using books is the best way to introduce the subject because a variety of teaching methods can be incorporated. Looking at pictures, reading together, and chatting about topics they have questions about are all great ways of generating curiosity.
A book on nutrition is fundamental to this lesson.
This book on nutrition facts for kids has some great lessons that are easy to comprehend for kids. Teaching human anatomy should encourage children to treat their body well. Eating healthy food, drinking lots of water, avoiding lots of sugar and getting plenty of exercise are all themes we should discuss with the kids.
Using books about body parts, the skeleton and the organs are naturally very important and this book has some great information and images to do just that. It’s jam-packed with colorful diagrams, fun facts and cool stories about the human body. And it was written by a pediatrician so you can be sure the facts are all spot on!
Going to the doctor to have check-ups can be scary for little kids so learning about all the things the doctor will check out should help minimize that fear.
Felt human organs
An interesting tactile instrument for learning how all the organs connect is the human organs felt board and 3-part Montessori cards. With this board, you have the possibility to not only explain the position of the of individual organs throughout the body, but also the intricate organ systems they form. And reinforcing the learning with the Montessori 3-part cards of the organs is made easy and fun.
Another good way to round out the lesson and get even deeper into the science are videos. Below you will see a few good videos which I have selected based on their information and early years comprehension.
Introducing the body’s organ systems
The sheer number of organs and how they are all inter-connected can be daunting on the part of a small child. That’s why discussing the different organ systems and explaining what function each is responsible for is a great way to begin the lesson.
There are 11 organ systems in total. These are the systems represented in the felt board. Not every part of the system is included, just the organs in parentheses:
- The circulatory system (heart and lungs)
- The respiratory system (pharynx, larynx, and lungs)
- The digestive system (esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestines, large and small, rectum and anus)
- The urinary system (kidney, bladder, and urethra)
- The nervous system (brain)
Further systems include (but not represented in the felt board):
- Integumentary system (skin, hair, fat, and nails)
- Skeletal system (bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons)
- Endocrine system (glands)
- Lymphatic system (lymph, nodes, tissue and immune system)
- Muscular system (skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles)
- The reproductive system (sex organs: ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus/testes, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and prostate)
Introducing the felt organs
To get things started, find yourself a nice flat surface in an undisturbed environment as this activity requires a lot of attention and concentration on the part of your child. Once you’ve done this, switch off your mobile and let the fun begin!
Constructing the human organs according to the systems to which they pertain is an essential way of introducing their function, position and in some cases, multiple-system dependency. It is also made easy with the color-coded hook and loop connectors that are strategically placed to ensure accurate positioning and movement within the body of food, liquids, and blood.
The respiratory and circulatory system
For example, starting with the respiratory system means separating the esophagus and lungs from the rest of the organs first and placing them in the middle of the chest. These are our breathing tools. Air contains 21% oxygen, but also 78% nitrogen, which we don’t need so we simply breath it out with every exhale. 1% are rare gases like argon and xenon mixed together.
Then move on to the heart and explain the lungs dual system function with the circulatory system. Explain how the lungs take the oxygen we breathe and deliver it to the blood. The heart then sends the blood to the whole body, which needs all this oxygen.
The digestive and urinary systems
After the circulatory system, you can work your way down the body, through the digestive and urinary systems. Start with the esophagus, and stomach. Explain that after we eat food it is digested with stomach acids and enzymes and sent to our intestines and eventually expulsed from the body through the anus. The urinary system is responsible for the liquids we drink, both in filtering toxins with the kidneys and expulsing pee pee through the bladder and urethra.
The nervous system
Though only the brain is present from the nervous system, it is the most important organ in the body and should be shown in context with a book. Show how it is attached to a vast network of nerves which spreads throughout the body and functions as the “central processor” of the whole body.
These nerves are attached to parts of our body which are responsible for our senses. We see with our eyes, we taste with our mouth and so on. These nerves send messages back to the brain and in this process, we have a reaction to the stimuli. Either we like what we see or we gag when we don’t like what we taste.
These functions can be illustrated with lots of great props for your environment.
Playing music, caressing with a feather, using Montessori sensorial bins can all teach our children about the nervous system and our five senses.
When we blink it’s for a variety of reasons. Blinking is a protective reflex by the eye to keep it safe from dust particles and other foreign bodies. Also if the lights are too bright we react by blinking. But the most important reason is to keep our eyeballs hydrated. If they stay open too long the would simply dry out!
Yawning is common when we wake up or when we’re feeling sleepy. But why do we do it? There are a few theories. One is a need by the body for an influx of oxygen because of a higher carbon dioxide level in the blood. Another says it’s our need to maintain a fight or flight level of oxygen in the blood in order to stay prepared for action.
You know that strange tickling irritation in your nose that shows up just before you sneeze? That is a foreign particle which has found its way into your nasal mucosa and your body just wants it out! So a convulsive expulsion forces it out through the nose and mouth. The particle and all the snot that happens to be laying around in there.
Remember when our parents told us not to eat or drink so fast? That’s why we get the hiccups, that and a few other ailments, like surgery or strokes. When the stomach fills up too quickly it irritates the diaphragm and causes contractions, like when we take a breath. There are many ways to cure them but taking deep breaths or just holding your breath has always worked best for me. That and a good scare!
Give it all a good summary
Explain how some of the systems work independently while others rely on the direction of the brain and its sensory systems to function. For example, explain how we are able to move our muscles and limbs or chew and swallow thanks to the brains commands and bodies reflexive functionality.
Each of the organ systems could easily be broken down into individual lessons utilizing felt organs and other props to illustrate the processes.
Amplify the fun and learning possibilities with 3-part Montessori cards
If you get the 3-part organ cards, they are an excellent tool for reinforcing the learning and extend the activities of the lesson. They challenge your child to match realistic images of the cards to the felt pieces, both with and without labels. This is a sure-fire comprehension check.
Be sure to have the control card handy to show how things connect and work together. These cards are also available in other languages as well as bilingual.
Health and fitness for kids
Next, we should discuss the effects of a poor diet and too little exercise can have on the body. Making sure to keep it simple and refer to the organs and systems we’ve just learned to support the lesson.
We can talk about obesity and how overeating and excess fat impacts our body, in particular, our organs. Point out that not only a good diet but also lots of movement and stretching can keep us fit and happy.
By splitting up this lesson over a couple of days or even weeks you allow enough time to process all the information and review the most complex parts.
This is also a great time to explain how the immune system works. Explain how it originates from different parts of the body which produce white blood cells and relies on our circulatory system to deliver these cells to any place in the body which has become infected or if we get a virus like the common cold.
This may all seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, but once you have finished your kids will have had a healthy dose of fun and education!
Using videos for the body’s systems
There are copious amounts of videos to learn the different systems of our body, and I have two little boys, trust me I’ve seen them all! Here I have listed my favorites based on the systems they describe. Happy watching!
The circulatory system:
The respiratory system
The Skeletal system: