Many kids and adults fear and loathe stinging and biting insects such as spiders, mosquitoes, wasps and hornets. However, children can also have a natural curiosity about all sorts of bugs, many of which are harmless.
Either way, bugs are everywhere, in a vast and varied number of shapes, sizes and species. Let’s look at 10 fun ways to help foster your child’s budding insect interest.
There are a ton of great books and insect guides available that yield all sorts of interesting information about flying, creeping and crawling bug species. A trip to a local library should turn up plenty of reading material. Tailor selections to your child’s age and choose volumes with colorful illustrations. A field guide for collecting and observing insects also offers a lot of valuable tips and information.
Mounting and Collection Kits
Starting a bug collection and mounting insects is a fun way to learn more about them. Butterflies are one of the most popular varieties for mounting, due to the many colorful variations of their wings. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment; instead, use a shoe box lined with Styrofoam to store deceased and mountable insects. Use straight pins for mounting and label each specimen by writing names and collection info on peel off stickers or paper taped beneath each one.
Taking a nature hike with your child to find insects in their natural habitat is a great way to spend quality time together and make lots of neat discoveries. Parks, beaches and nearby wooded areas house perfect hiding spots for all sorts of bugs. Look in the grass, on and under rocks, on tree branches and in sandy areas to find and observe how insects behave in different environments.
Making your own bug-catching net is easy by using common household items like a nylon stocking or cheesecloth as a net with a straightened coat hanger as a handle is one example. Plastic food storage containers also work great to capture crawling critters. Take these items to capture bugs on your next exploration adventure.
Local science museums and gardening shows commonly feature exhibits filled will all sorts of exotic and fascinating insects. Look in the community activities section of your local paper or call museums in your area to find out when an exhibit is showing and plan to spend an afternoon there with your child.
Educational TV Specials
Television can be a great learning platform. Educational TV networks such as Animal Planet and Discovery Channel may run insect documentaries, or you can browse educational DVD titles at Amazon or your local library to find movies featuring bugs. Check channel websites or your cable guide and use search words like bugs, insects, spiders, etc. to find upcoming relevant programming.
Grow a Garden
Flowers and plants attract all sorts of bugs. Plant and tend a garden with your child, and use the project as a dual learning opportunity about how plants and flowers grow. Kids can observe garden insect visitors in motion and you can also explain how bugs and plants mutually benefit from one another.
Ant farms are a fun way to watch these small productive workers accomplish numerous tasks. Build your farm with something as simple as a large glass jar or a fish bowl and a cardboard tube. Find an ant colony in the yard and transfer them, with dirt, to the bowl. You’ll need to find and add the queen ant in order for the colony to survive. Drop in bits of food and water daily like bread crumbs with honey, small bits of fruit and cotton balls soaked in water.
School Science Clubs or 4H Programs
School science clubs and science fairs or local 4H clubs may have programs and projects designed to teach your child about insects. Place some calls to find out what’s being offered in your area.
Mobile Microscopes and Magnifying Glasses
There are small portable microscopes that work in conjunction with mobile devices like tablets and cell phones that allow microscopic viewing and photography, which would be perfect for checking out insects. These gadgets would be great to use during hikes and camping trips. Standard magnifying glasses are also handy for making close up observations. Be sure to shoot photos of your finds, which can be cataloged or put into a scrapbook.