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Categorizing Clouds for Kids: Cloud Pictures and Project

Scattered Clouds Red Hawaiian Sunset

Scattered Clouds Red Hawaiian Sunset

The Wonderful Sky of Clouds

Children's Education on Clouds With Pictures

It's a dog! That ones a unicorn! And look at this one it's a train! The miracle of clouds has stretched across our skies and memories sense before they had scientific names. Cumulus, Stratus, Cirrus, and those dark damp Nimbus clouds, each have their own reason for showing up in the sky above. Today you will find this "Children's Guide to Cloud Terms and Cloud Pictures" to answer many of the questions kids (and even some adults) have about categorizing all those puffy, swishy, blankety, and watery floating wonders, we call "clouds."


A Cloud Needs a Good Name

A man named Luke Howard, who was a London pharmacist as well as a very good amateur meteorologist in the early 1800s, came up with all of the funny scientific names we have today for the clouds. Before Howard gave each cloud a category, people simply described them as they appeared to an individual person: puffy, white, dark, gray, woolly, and even castles and towers. A short time before Howard decided to come up with his names for clouds a few other weather scientists began developing cloud terminology of their own. In the long run Howard's cloud names, based on Latin descriptive terms that matched how the clouds appeared in the sky, prevailed.
Howard had three main types of clouds that we use to this day, scientifically as well as casually: cumulus, stratus, and cirrus. And those clouds that carry precipitation were named "nimbus," which is the Latin word for rain.

Cumulus clouds are those that have a fluffy appearance.

Cumulus clouds are those that have a fluffy appearance.

CUMULUS CLOUDS ("heap" or "pile")

The Latin word for "heap" or "pile" is cumulus. When you think about how cumulus clouds look in the sky— puffy and cotton ball-like appearance — it makes perfect sense why Howard chose this name. This type of cloud formation takes place when warm weather and moist air gets pushed upward. The size of the cumulus cloud formation depends on the force of that upward movement and the amount of water vapor in the air at the time. Cumulus clouds that are full of water (rain) are called cumulonimbus clouds.

Stratus clouds have a flat layered loook.

Stratus clouds have a flat layered loook.


The name for those clouds that appear a little lazy, flat, stretched-out, and layered are called stratus clouds. As I am sure you guessed already that "stratus" is the Latin word for "layer." These clouds can appear to be a great-big blanket across the sky. They are beautiful to look at and help to diffuse rays of the hot summer sun on the earth.

Cirrus clouds are whispy and feather-like.

Cirrus clouds are whispy and feather-like.

CIRRUS CLOUDS ("curl of hair")

The cirrus clouds are those clouds that make some of the best figures in the sky. They are named for their feathery, wispy, curly look. You guessed it, "cirrus" in Latin means "curl of hair," and looking at cirrus clouds you can see why Howard decided to describe them as such. These are found only at high altitudes and are really thin. So thin in fact, that the rays of sunlight show all of the way through them. This is where they get that wispy look from; the thick parts of the cloud pass less light, and the thinnest parts pass more light, making them appear to have curls and feathers.

Nimbus clouds are full of rain.

Nimbus clouds are full of rain.


known as the rain clouds because they hold tons of precipitation, nimbus clouds can take any shape or structure, or none at all. If you have ever witnessed the sky on a dark rainy day where it looks like one giant grey cloud overhead, you will have an idea what this means. Remember the cumulus cloud that is full of rain gets called a cumulonimbus ? "Nimbus" is the Latin word for "rain," so clouds that rain will have the "nimbus" term attached.


Strange and Beautiful Cloud Formations All Over the World (video)

Table for Cloud to Weather Association





Light rain that may or may not reach the ground. 


Heavy continuous rain or snow. 


Usually none, unless large formations that have been asscoiated with showers of rain and snow begin to react.


Thunderstorms, lightening, showers of rain, snow or hail.


May drizzle-may be asscoiated with low visability.


May drizzle-may be asscoiated with low visability.

More Education for Kids (and adults) the Fun Way!


The page below is design to document how you see the weather on a daily basis. It's fun to check the sky to see what clouds are hanging around on any given day. When you and your friends each look at the skies, do you see the same things? Are the clouds at your house any different from the clouds at the mall? The point of the project is to help you understand how the cloud formations relate to the actual weather you are encountering. Here's what you do:


How To Use The Project Page

  1. Print out the page below.
  2. Write in the date you are observing the clouds.
  3. Write in the time of day you are checking the sky.
  4. Write in the type of clouds you are seeing at that moment.
  5. Write in how the weather is reacting with the cloud category you see.
  6. Compare your results to the results of those your friends have reported.
  7. Check the official weather reports in your area to see how close your answers are to the actual weather reports.
Scroll to Continue

Fun Cloud and Weather Observation Project for Kids

Watch the weather and clouds and write down your observation on this Project page. See how you and your friends see the clouds differently.

Watch the weather and clouds and write down your observation on this Project page. See how you and your friends see the clouds differently.

An Official Cloud Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Why are the rainy clouds called NIMBUS clouds?
    • That is the name of the scientist who discovered them.
    • "Nimbus" in Latin means "Rain"
    • They look nimble in the sky.
  2. What does "STRATUS" mean in Latin?
    • Flat
    • Stretched
    • Layer
  3. Which cloud name means "curl of hair?"
    • CIRRUS
    • NIMBUS
  4. Which of the clouds have a cotton-ball-like appearance?
    • NIMBUS because they absorb water.
    • CUMULUS clouds because they look like they are "heaped" or "piled" in the sky.
    • STRATUS because they are white.
  5. Who named the clouds?
    • Roy
    • Steve
    • Howard

Answer Key

  1. "Nimbus" in Latin means "Rain"
  2. Layer
  4. CUMULUS clouds because they look like they are "heaped" or "piled" in the sky.
  5. Howard

Comments for "Categorizing Clouds - Children's Guide to Cloud Terms with Pictures"

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on February 16, 2012:

Stephanie Henkel~ Thank you for sharing your thoughts on categorizing clouds for kids! I know I had a blast learning while I researched this hub. I found the "nimbus" thing pretty interesting! I sure appreciate that you made it by.



Stephanie Henkel from USA on February 11, 2012:

You do make learning about the different kinds of clouds interesting and fun - and it all makes sense, too! :) I must re-read this hub as I never learned much about clouds before.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 21, 2011:

Chin chin~ What a great idea, this would make a good project for those homeschooling parents. I have much respect for the people who take-on the task of teaching children; no higher honor exists in my mind. Sharing our generations' know-how and what we have learned through the years and from our past generations is to be given to the Young to pass-on to their children. I owe a great deal to a teacher from my past; a debt I'm afraid I will never get to repay.

Thank you for your wonderful comments and for making it by today to read about clouds.



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 21, 2011:

Earth Angel~ You are simply the best! You bring with you today the joy of gifted smiles; I will treasure these always. Thank you so much for sharing with your FaceBook account. I just think that's so nice. I hope even one little kid learns something cool from this fun "Naming clouds" article.

Much HubLove my friend~


Earth Angel on July 21, 2011:

Blessings of love and grace this mornin K9!

Just a note to let you know I voted for your Hub here in the Share Alike Contest AND posted it to my FaceBook!

You are the BEST!

Earth Angel Blessings Always, Sapphire!!

Chin chin from Philippines on July 21, 2011:

This is a really great resource for kids wanting to learn about this topic. Even teachers and homeschooling parents will definitely like this cloud lesson for kids.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 21, 2011:

WannaB Writer~ Being a photographer as well, I absolutely understand your curiosity for this topic. It is why I researched "clouds" in the first place. Knowing how to categorize clouds has improved my filing for natural images. So glad you have found the hub helpful! I appreciate your comments very much.



Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on July 21, 2011:

This is especially useful for me because I love photographing clouds and I'm never sure what to call them. I've had books, but they weren't as easy to understand as your hub, so I guess I'm one of those adults you referred to that needs help.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 20, 2011:

Earth Angel~ You are so kind. I enjoyed creating this hub very much. I think it's sweet that you see angels and wings among the spray of clouds!

Big HubHugs~


Audry~ Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for the shout-out for the contest. It will be difficult to follow in your award winning hubshoes! Appreciate your comments very much--



Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 20, 2011:

Great hub, K9 - fantastic idea for a hub too - and congrats on making it into the contest!

Earth Angel on July 16, 2011:

Blessings to you K9keystokes!

How delightful a Hub! You are just the BEST!

I always see "angels" and "wings" in the clouds!

GREAT Fun Hub! Will pass it along to my younger friends!

Blessings always, Earth Angel!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 16, 2011:

Susan K. Earl~ Thank you for the lovely comments. I am so pleased that this little cloud hub managed to bring you a few sisterly memories! Also flattered you will be sharing it with your science teachers. I value your comments with honest respect.



Susan K. Earl from North Central Texas on July 15, 2011:

Excellent post, K9! I will definitely pass it on to our science teachers. I for one love watching the clouds and finding all the wonderful shapes in them. It's been something my sisters and I have done all our lives and passed on to our kids... and grandkids! This is a really fun and easy lesson for all to understand more about clouds and how they affect our everyday life. Right now we could really use a lot of those cumulusnimbus clouds to float on down to Texas! Thanks for posting this.



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 15, 2011:

prairieprincess~ Super cool that you learned a way to remember cloud terms here. Glad that you enjoyed the hub! I appreciate your comments very much.



Sharilee Swaity from Canada on July 15, 2011:

Keystrokes, I truly enjoyed this hub. Ever since my sister and I were children, she always knew the clouds, and I could never remember. Now, you have taught me in a way that I will always remember. Thank you! Very informative little hub. Loved!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 15, 2011:

J.S.Matthew~ Thank you for the great remarks about this little cloud hub for kids! I am pleased that you found it easy to read and hope your daughter enjoys it as much as you did. It was very fun to create; who doesn't like to look at clouds!?



JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on July 15, 2011:

Very thorough and easy to read! Great job here. Voting Up and Sharing! I will also share with my daughter who always loves to look at the clouds and sees shapes and animals.


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