Can you help me read these directions?  Most of the time, they are the instructions for how to build something like a house or a car.  These look different though.  They are not asking for wood or metal or glass.  Instead, it's asking for things like . . . nucleic acid?  Do you know what that is?  Here, unfold that part, and that, and that.  Let's spread it out across the floor to see what we are building.  Oh . . . we are building a human. 

Just as these directions laid out before us are made of paper, the directions that build a person are also made of something.  Nucleic acids are the tiny building blocks that make up the directions for all living things.  These building blocks come together to make long strings, which stack on top of each other to make directions that kind of look like a twisting ladder.  They are a lot harder to read than a piece of paper.

Directions to build LEGO, easy. Directions to build your body, hard.

Lucky for us, you do not have to follow these directions.  Your cells do it for you.  Every building site has a boss to tell people where to go.  Without him or her, people might throw the wood in the garbage, build a ceiling sideways, or pour cement over the windows.  You did not think your cells just flew around your body doing what they wanted, did you?  DNA are the directions a living thing's cells follow that tell it how to grow and what it will do.  They are the directions for how to build you!  You can thank these directions for not making toes grow out of your ears.  Or be mad at them, if you think ear toes would be cool.

OK everybody, wave thanks to your DNA.

Of course every set of directions are different.  If they were not, all of the buildings in the city would look the same and when it came to DNA, you would not be able to tell if the person standing in front of you was your teacher or your little sister.  (Of course, you would be just as nice to your little sister as you are to your teacher, right?)  One part of these directions will show how to make your eyes and another will show what color your hair will be.  A gene has the directions for one trait of a living thing.  You have thousands of genes and they are all found in your DNA.  Every living thing gets these from their parent or parents.  Each different part of you is made with one or more of these and all of them together make you the way you are.

If we look up close at the rungs of the direction ladder, you will see that the boss telling the cells how to work.  Each of these workers is making the stuff they need to build a life.  Your directions make you the way you are by making parts that can get things done.  A protein is what DNA makes to send out messages and to do all the things the cell needs to do.  If cells are the workers that follow the directions, proteins are the tools they build with.  They take care of all the little details to make sure you turn out just right.  Some days you may be sad that you do not get to choose what you look like.  Would you rather that, or that everyone looks the same?

I don't care which direction the protein told me to go. I'm going in this direction.

I give up!  It's not easy to build a person!  Good thing we do not need to.  The directions, your DNA, tell your cells what to make.  Your genes have directions for each part of you and all of these directions work to build proteins.  Proteins are like the glass, metal, and wood and glue of your body that make you look and act the way you do.  Did you understand all of that?  If you did, you can thank your genes!  If you did not, well, you can thank your genes.  


"Biology for Kids: DNA and Genes." Ducksters. Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI),  2014.  <>

Science Kids at Home.  "Genetics "" What are Genes?"  Science Kids at Home, 2011.  <>

Chem 4 Kids.  "DNA Details"  Chem 4 Kids, 2010.  <>