Children enjoy learning about human anatomy, such as the skull, so they can better understand their physical bodies. Parents, teachers and tutors can help students learn basic facts about the human skull, such as its purpose and structure. Use technical terms to describe the bones in the skull but avoid medical terminology, such as brain functions and skull-related diseases, that may be too advanced for elementary-age students to comprehend. Explain that the major purpose of the skull is to protect the average three-pound human brain.
Children often assume that the skull is made of only one bone, but it is comprised of 22 bones. Teach them that the skull contains eight larger bones that are designed to protect the brain, and those eight bones are collectively called the **cranium.** An additional 14 bones make up the facial structure.
The skull contains small holes, called **foramina**, that allow blood vessels and nerves to enter and exit the cranium. Tell students that the small holes are too little to feel with your hand.
Spaces Between Bones
The places where the bones in the skull join together are called **sutures**. The sutures close and solidify during childhood, but babies have soft sutures that provide some flexibility during delivery. There is an especially noticeable soft spot -- a large suture -- at the top of a baby's skull, known as the **fontanelle**. Instruct students that they should never push on that indention and that it closes up around age two. A human skull is nearly full-size at birth.
Importance of the Jawbone
The jawbone, technically known as the **mandible**, is the only bone in the skull that moves. The mandible is the largest and strongest bone in the skull and holds your teeth in place. Tell students that it's critically important to survival because it allows you to open your mouth and chew food.
Symmetry in the Skull
The bones in the face, other than the mandible and the **vomer** -- the bone that separates the left and right nasal cavities -- are arranged in pairs. Explain to students that this is why their faces are symmetrical. For example, the human skull has two symmetrical cheek bones and eye sockets.
Male and Female Differences
There are some forensic differences in adult male and female human skulls. Male skulls tend to be heavier, larger and thicker than female skulls. Female skulls are more rounded and the mandible protrudes less.
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