Happy DNA Day! Below are 15 activities to teach kids about DNA, genetics, and heredity. Each of these ideas are free and have worksheets, printables, or easy lesson/activity ideas that can generally be done in a day.
If you want to do some advance planning and have your kids take a DNA test, there are so many fun things you can do with the results. One of my favorites is the grandchild report from gene heritage. I even added photos to mine. Check it out here.
You can also create a “Grandparent Inheritance Chart” by Legacy Tree Genealogists as explained at the DNA eXplained blog. Another idea is to analyze sibling ethnicity estimates like Montserrat shared in her post, DNA, Ancestry, and Who You Are at her blog, Cranial Hiccups. If you’re wondering whether or not children should take DNA tests, you might want to read my post about that here: Should Children Take DNA Tests?
15 Genetics Activities for Kids
1. Genetics Lesson at Hub Pages – Use M&M’s to determine genetic traits, extract DNA from a strawberry using normal household materials, create edible DNA strands using marshmallows and licorice, design dog breeds as you select alleles, and more. Ages 3+
2. Family Traits Worksheet – Family history and inheritance at Family Locket. Read a book about DNA and gather data from family members about inherited traits. Get the free inherited traits worksheet here. Ages 4+
3. Teaching Heredity in Elementary School – idea for teaching traits with easter eggs, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners. Ages 5+
4. Human Body, Heredity Sort – Sort cut outs of traits that are inherited or learned. Ages 9+
5. Introduction to Heredity and Traits at Teach.Genetics.Utah.edu by the University of Utah – lots of printable worksheets and games for learning about heredity. Ages 10+. #s 6-11 are all from Teach.Genetics.Utah:
8. Generations of Traits with Gingerbread people and pompoms
10. Recipe for Traits – decode dog DNA
11. Family Traits and Traditions – determine whether or not a trait is inherited or learned
12. Are Fingerprint Patterns Inherited? at Science Buddies – grab a magnifying glass and explore the fingerprints of you and your kids! Ages 12+
13. Mendel’s Peas – learn about dominant and recessive traits with this interactive online learning portal. Ages 12+
14. Pedigree Analysis: A Family Tree of Traits at Science Buddies – gather data from family members and create a pedigree showing who has which phenotypes. Ages 12+
15. The Tree of Life at Science Buddies – use a computer program to compare the DNA sequence of the same genes in humans and animals. Ages 12+
The following links might be helpful resources for you. If you wait until holidays, the DNA kits usually go on sale if you buy them directly from Ancestry.com or other DNA testing companies like MyHeritage.com and FamilyTreeDNA.