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The Food Chain For Kids

Updated on June 11, 2012

Food Chain

Understanding the food chain for kids
Understanding the food chain for kids | Source

What is The Food Chain

Why We Need The Food Chain

Most food chains start with plant life, like grass and progress to large predators, like lions. We need the food chain so that all life can live, breed, and evolve on earth. Food chains let us know how plant life and animal life get bridged together by the things they eat.

Plants and Animals Along the Food Chain

Animals and plants are bridged together like a string of links on a chain. On one end of the chain we find carnivorous animals; at the other end we find plant life. For instance, tigers eat gazelles, and gazelles eat grass. This bridges the two together making a food chain.

Green Grass is Known as a Producer, it Gets the Food Chain Started

Grass is known as a producer in the food chain scheme. Providing a food source for those at the very bottom of the food chain.
Grass is known as a producer in the food chain scheme. Providing a food source for those at the very bottom of the food chain. | Source

Where Do We Find Food Chains

Are There Short Food Chains

Everywhere things live, is where we find food chains. Every single kind of habitat has several food chains which bridge living things—plants and animals—together. We see this chain within forests, grasslands, deserts, and even in the oceans.

Two Kinds of Short Forest Food Chains:

  1. On the Ground in the Forest - A rabbit will eat some of the green grass and plant life; the wolves will hunt and eat a few of the rabbits.
  2. Up In the Trees of a Forest - The Squirrel will eat the tree nuts and fruits while sitting on a tree branch; the hawks will swoop down and snatch-up some of the squirrels and eat them.

These are just a couple of examples of very short food chains. But, some longer bridges are created in nature as well.

This Big Green Grasshopper is a Primary Consumer (Placing it at the bottom of the food chain)

Grasshoppers find themselves at the low end of the food chain.
Grasshoppers find themselves at the low end of the food chain. | Source

This Lynx is a Secondary Consumer, (placing it on high on the food chain)

Big Cats like this Lynx,  are definitely at the top of the food chain!
Big Cats like this Lynx, are definitely at the top of the food chain! | Source

Longer Food Chains

In wetlands or grasslands we find much longer food chains because of the diverse number of creatures that live there. From tiny tuberous grasses to giant armor clad alligators, all become part of this longer food chain. Let's see how;

  • Caterpillars and grasshoppers casually munch on the fresh green grasses and plant life.
  • Lizards, bullfrogs and rodents pounce on the caterpillars and grasshoppers, subduing and eating them.
  • Slithering snakes silently crawl up close to hunt and grab the mice, frogs and lizards until these have been squeezed enough to pass out and then eat.
  • Flying raptor-like birds of prey—like gulls, hawks and eagles—home in with there perfect vision to grab the mice, frogs, and lizards with their strong talons and fly away to safely eat them.
  • When the birds of prey come to the water's edge to drink, giant alligators swim cautiously under the water to the shore to strike the large birds from the shoreline dragging them into the water to eat them.

Food Chains Sound Scary

Food Chains Can Be a Scary Thing to Think About

It may sound kind of scary, all this hunting, swooping, snatching, and eating among the creatures, but is a very necessary and important part of the life cycle on earth. I guess it's good to be at the top of the food chain like us humans!

At the Very Top We Find Humans, or Tertiary Consumers (the Apex Predators)

Humans are at the very top of the food chain, which makes us Apex Predators!
Humans are at the very top of the food chain, which makes us Apex Predators! | Source

What Do Humans Eat

Humans Are Omnivores

Humans need to eat a lot of things which include plants and animals, thus making us omnivores. Some humans choose to only eat plant life, which you may recognize as "vegetarian". Some people choose to only eat meat, which makes them "carnivores" (and most likely prone to bad health!). Our bodies need a balanced diet full of both meats, and vegetables. But, to be really healthy, we need to add in grains and some dairy (like milk, yogurt, and even a little cheese). So, because we are so diverse in what we eat, which includes large animals of all types, this places humans at the top of the food chain...as long as we have some kind of weapon on hand!

Scuba Gear Lion

Humans dominate big predators because we know how to fashion helpful tools and gear to help us hunt.
Humans dominate big predators because we know how to fashion helpful tools and gear to help us hunt. | Source

How Do Puny Humans Stay at the Top of the Food Chain

The human species does not come with long sharp claws, or powerful fangs, and we surely cannot fly naturally or hold our breath for very long under water. So how come we are at the top of the food chain eating everything found on land, in the sky, or in the sea? It's because of our super big brain! We have developed over the centuries into an ingenious being. We learned how to use tools, weapons, how to fly high in the sky and dive deep into the sea and survive. This is why we remain at the top of the food chain. You won't see an alligator or a lion fashioning an aircraft or scuba gear, that's for sure!

Human Intelligence Rules the Food Chain

It is important to understand that humans dominate only because of the items we have learned to manufacture. This brings an equalization to the food chain for us. We hunt, fish, and farm to keep our families fed. This happens only because we remain a great deal more intelligent, in many ways, than the things that live around us. Most humans hold no illusions that they would be able to wrestle and defeat a six-hundred pound lion without using any form of weapon. In the wild, and absent any way to make defensive weapons, we would not be so high up on the food chain at all. So, even though we don't have the physical strength or natural tools to win the top spot on the food chain, thank goodness for that big old brain of ours! It sure makes one great equalizer on the field of battle in Mother Nature's world!

Consumers Along One Kind of Food Chain

Three types of consumers are within the food chain; Primary consumers, Secondary consumers, and Tertiary consumers.
Three types of consumers are within the food chain; Primary consumers, Secondary consumers, and Tertiary consumers. | Source

What Types of Consumers Are in the Food Chain

There Are Three Types of Consumers in the Food Chain

Depending on the food chain in question, we usually can find three consumers. Different food chains (from different habitats) make up which creatures eat what. Here is one example of a three tiered consumer food chain.

  1. Primary Consumer - Usually herbivores, those that eat plants and/or fungus. Grasshoppers are primary consumers, and some rats are too.
  2. Secondary Consumer - Mainly carnivores, those that eat other animals. Also, some omnivores that eat both plant and animals. Rats are secondary consumers, but so are snakes and grasshoppers in some food chains.
  3. Tertiary Consumers - These are considered "apex predators" or those who eat primary and secondary consumers. Tertiary consumers can be either complete carnivores or omnivores. Hawks, Owls, and Humans are tertiary consumers.

Two additional players have a role in the food chain; at the very beginning we will find those called Producers (plants), and at the very end of the food chain we will find those called the Decomposers (like worms, insects, and fungus).

Note: In longer food chains we will find Quaternary consumers, these are also apex predators and are at the utmost top of the food chain. But for the purposes of this lesson, we will stay within the three tier consumer chain.

Food Chain Glossary

(click column header to sort results)
FOOD CHAIN WORD  
WHAT THE WORD MEANS  
Bulb
The part of the plant that is underground and is what some plants grow from
Carnivores
Animals that eat meat (other animals and creatures)
Energy
This is the power that plants must have so they can do, make, or grow
Herbivores
Animals that only eat plants
Nectar
A naturally sweet fluid that flowers make (and Hummingbirds love!)
Omnivores
Animals that eat both meat and plant life
Pod
A container that grows on plants that has seeds inside
Tuber
An underground plant growth that is fleshy, like a potato or carrot
Top of Food Chain
Animals that eat other creatures lower in the food chain
Vegetarian
People that only eat plant life

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Which are you when it comes to eating?

See results

Comments for "What is a Food Chain For Kids"

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    diane 

    5 years ago

    i like the food chain

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Missolive~ So glad to see you stopped by today. I sure appreciate that you enjoyed the information enough to pass along to your teaching friends, no higher honor exist in my book! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this food chain hub!

    HubHugs~

  • missolive profile image

    Marisa Hammond Olivares 

    6 years ago from Texas

    What a great lesson and you have provided loads of information here. Your tables are wonderful and you simplified everything beautifully. I have to agree with Teresa - Bravo!

    I'm forwarding to my Science dept.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Teresa~ Thanks for sharing your comments! I wrote the hub for the elementary level student to enjoy. Hopefully a teacher or two will find it helpful when presenting a lesson on the food chain! I sure appreciate your support!

    HubHugs~

  • Teresa Coppens profile image

    Teresa Coppens 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great hub on the food chain. I would definitely recommend this to my elementary teaching friends. It beautifully simplifies the process. Love the diagram and illustrations too. Bravo, Indie.

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