Why I Created This Kit
Bugs are fascinating creatures. I used to be scared of bugs, but after having my children I began to see bugs through a whole new set of eyes. My children’s fascination with the bug world soon became infectious and I now sit alongside them, digging in the dirt on endless searches for different kinds of bugs. We often ponder bug questions such as:
How many different kinds of bugs are there?
What is your favorite type of bug? Why?
Where can we see real-live, non-backyard bugs like scorpions and walking sticks? (The local zoo!)
How do insects help our world?
What bugs are dangerous?
- How come mosquito bites itch so gosh-darn much?
General Information for Parents
It’s funny that such small creatures could be so polarizing. I’ve found that adults (and some children) are either totally amazed by bugs or completely skeeved out by them. As I mentioned above, I went from the latter to the former, so I complete empathize with you no matter where you fall on the bug spectrum. It is possible to appreciate your child’s interest in bugs and support his/her journey through bug world without actually touching bugs. So go ahead. Admire them from afar. But remember that knowledge is power. The more you understand about bugs, the less scary they may become! Luckily, bugs.com has some great background about insects on their site to get you started:
“Insects can be such pests, but learning about them can be fun! For example, did you know that ants could lift 100 times their own body weight? That would be like you lifting a truck up over your head without even breaking a sweat!
Insects are arthropods and represent 90% of all life forms on earth. There are over 1 million different known species of bugs in the world, and some entomologists estimate that there might be as many as 10 million! All of these species are divided up into 32 orders, and the largest group is beetles.
They have 125 different families and around 500,000 different species. In fact, one out of every four animals on earth is a beetle.
Insects have three body parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. They have six jointed legs and two antennae. Insects have an exoskeleton, which contains sense organs for sensing light, sound, temperature, wind, pressure and smell. Insects usually go through 4 separate life stages: egg, larvae or nymph, pups and adult. Insects are cold blooded and do not have lungs, but many insects can fly and most have compound eyes.
Insects are incredibly adaptable creatures and have evolved to live successfully in most environments on earth, including deserts and even the Antarctic. The only place where insects are not commonly found is in the oceans.
Insects can be useful in producing honey, wax, silk and other products. They also pollinate flowers and crops. However, they can also destroy crops, carry disease, and be a major pest to people and animals!”
General Information for Children
Young children will first be able to identify a particular bug (“Ooh, look at that green grasshopper!” “Daddy, why is that hairy tarantula coming our way?”) before going deeper into understanding certain bug nuances. When your child is ready for some facts, head on over to the San Diego Zoo for key information such as:
“What Makes an Insect?
Insects are divided into two main groups: those with wings and those without. There are nearly one million known species of insects, and more are being discovered each year! Many people think that spiders are insects—they are not. Spiders belong to a different group of animals called arachnids, which also includes scorpions.
Are invertebrates (which means they do not have a backbone or internal skeleton. Instead, they have a hard exoskeleton on the outside of the body.)
Have a body divided into three parts: the head, the thorax (the middle section), and the abdomen.
Have two antennae and six legs
Hatch from eggs”
Bugs A-to-Z by Caroline Lawton
This book is a great choice for younger readers because it plays off the alphabet to provide bug facts from A to Z. This not only reinforces the alphabet itself but also helps boost memory, as readers associate the letter with the respective bug name and information. The photographs complement the text beautifully and supports visual learners.
Are You a Ladybug? (Backyard Books) by Judy Allen
I love this text, which happens to be part of a series called Backyard Books. (If your little one isn’t really into ladybugs, you may want to look into other Backyard Books. There are ones about bees, ants, dragonflies, spiders, grasshoppers, and butterflies.) I personally use these books with Kindergarten and first grade students because the format is really engaging for nonfiction texts. The author starts the book with the question, “Are you a ladybug? If you are, your parents look like this, and they eat aphids.” Questions like this one invites the reader into the world of ladybugs and asks him/her to compare his/her lifestyle to that of a ladybug. Are You a Ladybug is also pretty awesome because it provides cool facts. Why, did you know that over 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs inhabit the earth? I didn’t, until I read this book!
The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
This is a wonderful story about a little lonely firefly that wants nothing more than to find a friend. The Very Lonely Firefly was one of my son’s favorites when he was younger. I think he enjoyed talking about a bug that has a light-up butt. Haha! This book was a catalyst for exploring our own backyard in search of fireflies. Fireflies are easy to catch and even more fascinating to talk about: What is the technical term for the light-up butt? (Bioluminescence) What purpose does the light serve? (It attracts mates and warns prey.) What type of insect is a firefly? (It belongs to the beetle order.) You could find more fun firefly facts here.
Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe
This lovely story is a great follow up to The Very Lonely Firefly and searching for fireflies in our backyard. In Fireflies!, a boy catches fireflies in a jar but soon realizes that it is better to set them free. This book allowed me to show my son why we could study fireflies but we could not keep them trapped for a long time. Side note: as a Reading Specialist, I use this book in Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms to demonstrate narrative story arcs (beginning, middle, and end) and in writing workshop as an example of a personal narrative.
Ultimate Sticker Book: Bugs by DK Publishing
All kids love stickers! Why not reinforce your child’s insect knowledge with this sticker book? Children of all ages could have fun placing the stickers throughout the book while you read the information associated with each insect. Sticky fun for everyone!
Bugs Toddler Preschool by Toddler Teasers (for iOS and Android)
Learn your bugs with fun games, quizzes, flashcards and puzzles.Approved by teachers, parents and toddlers alike Toddler Teasers Bugs teaches while it entertains. With a focus on simplicity and full voice overs, toddlers play and learn without the need for extra help. The app displays colorful quizzes, flashcards, toy box and puzzle games while offering positive reinforcement and fun rewards. The child-safe menu allows parents to customize game play and difficulty.
- 4 ways to play: Quizzing, Flashcards, Toy Box and Puzzle game modes.
- Fully voiced over in English, Spanish and French.
- Simple toddler friendly game play with no added distractions or menus to get stuck in.
- Colorful high resolution artwork and fun music keeps children engaged.
On Beyond Bugs! (Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat) (for iOS)
This is an interactive eBook version of the printed book, On Beyond Bugs! by Dr. Seuss. It has some insect facts mixed in with the recognizable Cat in the Hat.
From the developer, Oceanhouse Media:
“Join the Cat in the Hat as he teaches Dick and Sally all about insects! Explore pictures and diagrams, learn new vocabulary, and personalize the story with your own narration. Did you know that our six-legged friends help keep the environment clean?”
Meet the Insects: Forest Edition (for iOS)
If your child is ready for a more advanced study of insects, try this award-winning app. I love it because it has videos and narration to accompany the text, allowing my youngest son access to the information even though it is written at a higher level. We started with the “Insect Story” screen first, which gave us a cursory background on insects. FYI: There are two other insect apps in this series: 1) insects the live near a village; and 2) insects that live near water and grass.
From the developer, NCSOFT:
- “Make each insect come to life with a tap of a finger.
- What animal has the largest number of species on earth? The insects! Watch and interact with the animation as it takes you into the world of insects.
- Why does Common Yellow Swallowtail like to sunbathe? Get ready to dive into a handful of interesting facts of each insect with eye-catching illustrations.
- Meet the insects through mind-blowing videos and photos.
- If you think you are done with the encyclopedia, gear up for the OX and Photo quiz and review what you’ve learned.
- When you find an insect to observe and start the observation journal, you are now the insect expert!”
Songs About Bugs
Preschooleducation.com has tons of songs about bugs, including “Flutter, Flutter, Butterfly” and “Oh, the Ants are Busy”.
Interesting Facts About Bugs
National Geographic has an amazing site that is updated frequently with interesting facts and stories about bugs. They have incredible images that really let you see bugs up close and give your child a better understanding of a bug's world.
A Bug’s Life (Movie)
A misfit ant, looking for "warriors" to save his colony from greedy grasshoppers, recruits a group of bugs that turn out to be an inept circus troupe. (IMDb)
Sid the Science Kid: Bug Club (Movie)
Co-produced by The Jim Henson Company and KCET/Los Angeles for PBS KIDS, Sid the Science Kid is a half hour computer-animated program for preschoolers. Always wondering "why?" or "how?," Sid's inquisitive nature and zeal for learning make science a natural part of his every day life. Sid can't rest until he finds the answers to his questions about life and the world around him, and since he has a lot of questions, he's a very busy kid. The Bug Club DVD features four episodes of the show that teach kids about bugs, nature, science and more. Bug-loving kids will get to learn about bees and ants and the places those insects call home. (Kids’ TV Movies)
The Magic School Bus: Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! (Movie)
Buzz, flutter and march into three tiny new worlds with Ms. Frizzle and The Magic School Bus! The Friz and her class explore the sticky home of a bee, the industrious life of an ant and the surprising identity of a caterpillar! Their Magic School Bus can go anywhere and be anything, so each field trip brings a new discovery to those brave enough to step through its doors! Featuring lots of busy bugs, this un-bee-lievable collection of episodes will take your child on a microscopic ride of learning that's an enormous amount of fun! (Warner Home Video)
Melting Insect Sensory Painting
Most kids love to get messy. Why not combine their love of all things messy with a buggy art piece? Praise to Crayonbox Chronicles for creating a fun insect sensory painting activity using the materials listed below:
Ice cube tray
Washable tempera paint, various colors
Large butcher or construction paper
First, fill an ice cube tray halfway with different colors of tempera paint. Then place the insect figures into the center of each “ice cube” and put the tray into the freezer. Once the paint is frozen, take out each cube, using a butter knife if needed. Rub the cubes to paint onto large butcher or construction paper, making as many buggy scenes as possible. Ask your child to identify each hidden bug as the cubes melt.
Suggested Family Experiences
Go on a thrilling insect hunt with your budding entomologist (aka insect scientist)! Simply travel to a local park or your own backyard for this inquiry activity, being sure to bring along a notebook, pencil, and crayons. Once you spot an interesting insect, study it carefully.
What is the name of the insect?
What color is the insect?
What does it look like?
Does it have wings? Legs?
Is the insect carrying anything?
Where is the insect (on a flower, in the dirt, etc.)?
Are there other insects like it nearby?
When your child is ready, turn to a clean notebook page and have him/her draw the insect and the insect’s surroundings (grass, etc.). Older kids could include a sentence or two about the insect.
Find at least two different insects and repeat the process.
After he/she is finished, ask your child to look at all his/her drawings. What is the same about the insects? What is different?
Live Butterfly Garden®
Butterflies go through a distinct life cycle that consists of four stages. If you are interested in purchasing a Live Butterfly Garden for your home, you could have your child watch butterflies move from larvae (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalises) to a fully formed butterfly (the eggs are hatched before arriving)! The kit comes with everything you will need, including a pop-up mesh habitat and food.
Sheila is a Jersey girl (or should we say "mom"), with a passion for teaching and literacy. She is Jersey bred, currently living in Montclair. Sheila has 16+ years working as a teacher and reading specialist and recently completed her dissertation on children's literature and technology. We "met" Sheila through her blog, teachingliteracy.tumblr.com.