How to Explain Survival of the Fittest

There comes a time when every modern parent must explain to their children the concept of, "survival of the fittest," the popular expression that summarizes Darwin's theory of natural selection [source: PBS]. Explaining the concept to young, curious minds doesn't need to get too scientific, but it does need to be accurate. Read the tips listed below and learn about how to explain survival of the fittest in a fun and educational way.

  • Provide the facts Start by explaining how survival of the fittest works. It's a natural process where certain animals -- because of their given advantages -- are able to adapt to a specific environmental condition better than others. For example, animals that are better at finding food will be able to live longer and have more children than other animals that are not as good at finding food. Also, the stronger, healthier animals will pass their genes onto their children, giving them the same advantages [source: PBS].
  • Give examples There are many examples in nature that can be excellent displays of survival of the fittest. The crocodile -- an animal that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs -- is an animal that has been able to survive because of its advantages. Find a picture of a dinosaur and discuss with your children what traits they think helped the crocodile survive, while others species, including dinosaurs, became extinct. Remind them to consider the crocodile's physical features, diet and habitat [source: National Geographic].
  • Compare species Teach your children to think like Darwin by examining the differences in various species of animals. Show pictures and watch videos of animals that evolved based on their habitat. For example, show them two different species of a tortoise and discuss the differences between them. Ask your children why, if they're the same animal, do the two species have slightly different body parts? Also ask how those differences help the species in their environment? [source: AMNH].