Written by Shawna of Not the Former Things.
My son’s good friend broke his arm over the summer. The boys talked all about how it happened, signed the cast, and appreciated the color he chose. When we were driving home, I asked them which bone he had broken in his forearm. Both of them looked at me like I had two heads.
Although we had briefly covered anatomy in their science curriculum a year ago, neither really remembered much about the skeletal system. I understood – the learning was a bit dry.
I decided then and there to come up with a hands-on way to understand and learn about the human skeleton. I wanted something that would stick, and would make sense for my active, potentially bone breaking themselves, boys.
Hands-On Science: Label the Skeleton System Activity
Full Disclosure: I am not a crafty mom. I do not have craft supplies all over the place just waiting for creativity to strike. I have Amazon and a little money set aside each month for hands-on learning activities that do not require me to be more crafty than I am capable.
For this activity, you’ll need:
- Two paper skeletons with mobile extremities, per child
- One piece of white construction paper or poster board
- A marker
- A ruler
- The Human Skeleton Printable (downloadable cheat sheet)
- Bonus Activity – Any large decorative skeletons/bones you may have in your garage or choose to buy when available in stores
The key to this project is a paper skeleton that can be easily manipulated and held. While it is possible to make them, the good news is that pre-made paper skeletons are not hard to come by. Depending on the time of year, you can find decorative skeletons at the Dollar Store. There are also several, inexpensive options that work well for hands-on learning available year round, online.
To begin this activity, glue one of the paper skeletons to the poster board. Using the ruler, draw lines indicating the the bones you wish to introduce.
For my boys, I started with the basics. We all sat around the poster board and named different bones. Then, we took turns writing the names of the individual bones on the lines, using this printable as a cheat sheet.
When our reference board was complete, we were then able to use it over the course of the week for more hands-on practice and understanding.
I quizzed them on the different bones while they used the paper skeleton that had not been glued down. Because they were able to hold and move the skeleton around, they were easily able to apply what they’d learned.
Here are all the project steps in order:
- Step 1: Glue skeleton to poster board
- Step 2: Draw lines to bones and label them
- Step 3: Check for understanding and learning using additional, free moving, paper skeletons.
- Step:4 Name more and more bones as your child becomes more and more proficient.
As a bonus activity, we practiced naming the different parts of the skeletal system on our full skeleton (named Boney by my youngest. We also used a “bag of bones” set, and placed the larger bones alongside our reference poster.
Overall, these hands-on exercises helped solidify my sons’ understanding of the skeletal system and their own bodies. Now that they know the basics, we will continue to add more bones to our poster. Our goal is to identify all 206 by the end of the year.
See more hands-on ways to teach kids about the human body below!