What Is Alive?

How do we tell whether something is living or nonliving? What are the things we can look for in an object to tell whether or not it is alive? How do we know that a dog or a cat is alive, but that the collar it wears and the rug it sleeps on are not? Living things have some common features that we can see. Living things are made up of cells, they breathe, and they use energy. In this activity, you and your family members will learn how to recognize living and nonliving things.


A sheet of notebook paper divided into two columns labeled “Nonliving Things” and “Living Things”


Sit down with the paper, the pencil, and a pile of old magazines. On the paper, make a chart like the one shown here. Now look through the old magazines for things that are living and things that are nonliving. Cut out pictures of at least five living things and five nonliving things. Discuss with a family member how you knew that the things were living or nonliving.


When you have finished, talk with the family member about other ways you can recognize living things. Do you think the leaves that fall off a tree in the fall are alive? Are eggs that come from a chicken alive?