Tiny Creatures

Ages 4 to 6

Why I Created This Kit

My children absolutely love animals and the world is filled with plenty of fascinating creatures, big and small. Whether it is a trip to the zoo or looking for animals in our own backyard, my children are always excited to learn more about the creatures wandering this earth. However, there is a whole world of creatures that are many times overlooked because of their size.

West Family.jpg

Some of the tiniest creatures go unnoticed in day to day life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an interesting story to tell. This kit will bring the world of some of the tiniest creatures on earth to life. From ants to hamsters, this kit takes a closer look at some of nature’s smallest residents and what makes them each unique.This kit will also discuss how these tiny creatures fit into the larger picture, our ecosystem and food chain.

Before starting this kit, open up the conversation about small creatures with your child. Ask your child about their favorite animals or insects and have him describe them to you. What sounds do the animals make? What do they eat?  What kinds of small creatures are there?

Suggested Books for This Theme

What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You? by Steve Jenkins

One of the major problems of being a small creature is that a lot of different things will want to eat you. In this book, we will look at some tiny creatures with big defense mechanisms. Your child will learn about a variety of defense mechanisms used by creatures such as mimicry, camouflage, and speed as well as specific responses such as the ink that octopuses use or the puffer fish's ability to expand itself.

Post-Reading Questions:

  • What are some of the ways that creatures avoid being eaten?

  • Which creature did you like best from the book?

Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole

In this book your child can go on a garden adventure with Jack. A garden contains its own tiny ecosystem and your child can learn about all the tiny creatures that keep the garden going. From insects to birds, this book will open your child’s eyes to the complex ecosystem required to maintain a beautiful garden.

Post-Reading Questions:

  • What is your favorite creature from the book?

  • How did the creatures work together to keep the garden healthy?

The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre

Bees are a tiny creature that perform a vital task for our ecosystem, pollinating our flowers. This book follows the life cycle of a bumblebee queen. From the moment she emerges from her winter shell, the queen bumblebee is very busy. She must find a home, build a nest, lay her eggs, tend to her larva and manage her colony all before the summer’s end. Your child will learn all of this and more by reading The Bumblebee Queen.

Post-Reading Questions:

  • Where did the Bumblee queen decide to build her nest?

  • What part of the Bumblee queen’s job do you think is hardest?

Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen

This book is a great addition to learning about some of the world’s tiniest creatures. This book will allow your child to experience the world from a tiny creature’s point-of-view, an obnoxious little fly. The teasing insect easily misses the rhino’s roll, squash, roll and the tiger’s swat, swoop, snatch too. Michael Rosen’s simple language is a joy to read aloud, while Kevin Waldron’s whimsical images match his playful rhythm beat for beat, offering a fly’s-eye view of each favorite animal before revealing the energized creature in full.

Post-Reading Question:

  • Do you think it would be scary to be as small as a fly?

In The Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

This book takes a look at all the tiny creatures that live in a pond. Young children are introduced to the basic habits of common North American wildlife and to the characteristics of the changing seasons even as they are treated to an array of zippy verbs. I love that this book contains some more unusual tiny creatures such as clacking crawfish for your child to discover.

Post-Reading Questions:

  • Which creature in the book was your favorite?

  • Did any of the animals that live in the pond surprise you?

The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

Some tiny creatures have very special talents. One such creature is the cricket. In this book we follow one cricket from the time he hatches until he learns to chirp. This book will allow your child to better understand how crickets speak to one another with a very unique form of communication.

Post-Reading Questions:

  • What special talents do you have?

Suggested Apps for This Theme

Grandma Loves Bugs

  • Formats: iTunes ($1.99)

  • Learn all about bugs with Grandma! This adventurous Grandma needs help identifying bugs, coloring butterflies, catching fireflies, spelling buggy words, matching letters on bees and flowers, building a spider web, and even finding a bug in her hair! Includes 10 mini-games and 8 instructional videos for ages 5 and under.

Food Chains for Kids

  • Formats: iTunes (FREE)

  • This app helps teach children about the food chain in a colorful and fun way. Your child will learn about various living things such as animals and plants, sort them into different categories and discover where they fit into the food chain with this fun science activity for kids.

Kiddy Bees

  • Google Play ($1.03)

  • This app will allow children to discover all the insects living in a garden in a cute hide-and-seek game as well as discovering various sounds that small animals make on a farm. The app also allows your child to navigate an underground maze just like an ant!

 

Fascinating Facts About Tiny Creatures!

You may want to share some of these with your child before diving into books. Alternatively, this information and exploring further can extend engagement with the books.

What types of small creatures are there?

To answer this question, you must first discuss exactly what an animal is to your child. Most of the time people associate the word “animal” with creatures that have a vertebra. Explain to your child that there are two different types of animals- vertebrates and invertebrates.

You can tell the child that a vertebrate is any animal with a backbone. You can point out your child’s own backbone. If you have a pet cat or dog, point out it’s vertebra as well. You can have your child name off animals that he thinks are vertebrates.

Source: Showme.com

Source: Showme.com

Next explain that there are other creatures in the world that do not have vertebra (backbones). These animals are typically very small. Examples of invertebrates include spiders, earthworms, snails, clams, starfish, jellyfish, and corals. See if your child can name anymore invertebrates.

Now that your child is familiar with the differences in vertebrates and invertebrates, you can explain that invertebrates tend to be smaller than vertebrates. In fact, invertebrates makeup over 97% of all animals! That is a lot! When you tell the child that 97% of all animals are invertebrates you can show exactly how large that is by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper. Color in approximately 97% of the circle with a crayon or marker. There will only be a tiny sliver of white left on the page. Explain that animals with backbones make up only that TINY sliver of all animals, invertebrates make up the rest.

With that being said, it is no wonder that the tiniest creatures in the world are invertebrates.

[Source: Rand McNally Textbooks]

What is the smallest creature in the world?

According to many sources, the smallest known animal in the world is a microscopic water-dwelling invertebrate called the tardigrade. It is also known as the water bear or moss piglet.

Tardigrades have eight legs and segmented bodies. They look like short, chubby caterpillars. They are found all over the world, from the highest mountains to the deepest ocean trenches. Scientists have identified more than 1,000 different species of tardigrades. In the smallest species, adults reach lengths of less than 0.1 millimeter, or 4/1,000ths of an inch.
— Rand McNally Texbooks
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Explain to your child that this animal is so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye. You would need a microscope to view this tiny creature.

Krill And Phytoplankton: The tiny helpers of the sea

Sometimes the tiniest animals have the biggest impact. Case in point, Krill and Phytoplankton may be small but they are a vital part of keeping our oceans healthy and happy. These tiny species are so important that without them, most of the life forms in the Antarctic would completely disappear.

You can show your child some photos of Krill and explain that they are a major food source for ocean dwelling creatures. In fact, Krill and Phytoplankton are the main staple in the diets of literally hundreds of different animals, from fish, to birds, to baleen whales.

How cool is that! You can now explain that small definitely does not mean unimportant!

[Source: National Geographic]


Multimedia Resources

Explore some unique tiny creatures

Source: Viralnova

Source: Viralnova

  • The world is full of some very unique tiny creatures. Viral Nova outlines some exceptionally interesting creatures that will surely grab your child’s interest. You will see the tiniest species of octopus, frog, geckos, seahorse, bats and lizards to name a few. Check out the article that outlines 24 of the tiniest animals that have larger versions roaming the earth. Be sure to show your child all the photos!

5 incredibly TINY ANIMALS! (World's SMALLEST ANIMALS!)

  • This video features 5 incredible and tiny animals. Your child can see some of the smallest creatures in the world up-close-and-person in this Animal Planet video.

The Bumblebee Queen

How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly?

  • Both caterpillars and butterflies are interesting tiny creatures. However, does your child know that butterflies start out as caterpillars? This adorable video discusses the life cycle of a butterfly in an easy-to-understand format.

Explore Biology4Kids.Com: Vertebrates

  • This is a great overview of what makes vertebrates so special. With interesting facts, photos and information, your child will be a vertebrates expert thanks to Biology4Kids.

Explore Biology4Kids.com: Invertebrates

  • Your child knows about vertebrates, now they need some information on invertebrates! Invertebrates are typically the smallest creatures in the world, learn why they are so small and how they support our ecosystem.

Activities

Build Your Own Living Ecosystem

The best way to show the importance of the tiny creatures in this world is to build your own functioning ecosystem. It might take a bit of effort, but your kids will *really* enjoy this one. An ecosystem, when created correctly, can survive on its own without any help from us humans. Simply put the ecosystem together and watch it thrive.

What you need:

Source: Scribbit

Source: Scribbit

  • 3 empty and clear 2-liter bottles
  • clear packing tape
  • aquarium gravel (or fine, rinsed pea gravel)
  • water
  • de-chlorinator (optional)
  • rubber band
  • 4-inch square piece of netting
  • soil (dirt from outside is just fine)
  • mustard, rye or alfalfa seeds
  • fish, snails or other aquatic life (just a couple, we can find snails easily in our yard)
  • elodea or other aquarium plants (can be found outside in a pond or from the aquarium section of a pet store)
  • duck weed
  • crickets, pill bugs or earthworms (again could be found in your own yard or at a pet supply store)
  • a couple dead leaves or small stick

Head over to Scribbit for complete details on how to create your living ecosystem with the tools above. Once complete, your child will be able to see how all these tiny creatures and resources work together to benefit one another.

 

Creature Classification

Learn more about distinguishing vertebrates from invertebrates with this simply activity.

What you need:

  • Two pieces of construction paper
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Magazines or photos of a variety of animals

Write “vertebrates” on top of one piece of paper and “invertebrates” on the top of the other. Grab a few magazines that include photos of a variety of creatures or print off some photos on your computer. Cut out the photos and give them to your child.

Now ask your child to place all the photos on the correct piece of paper- vertebrate or invertebrate. Once the pictures are correctly placed, have your child glue them down.

ParentsRemember, vertebrates are creatures WITH a backbone. Invertebrates do NOT have a backbone. If you aren’t sure, google is there to help.

 

Explore Your Own Backyard!

Now that you know a little bit more about tiny creatures, explore your own backyard and apply what you know. Don’t have your own backyard? That’s okay! Head to a local park to explore. Pay close attention to gardens, under rocks, on trees and in the dirt, many tiny creatures can be found in these spots. Have your child place the tiny creatures they find into groups- vertebrates or invertebrates. Then discuss how they play a vital role in our ecosystem.

To further explore the ecosystem in your own backyard, have the child create a simple food chain for the animals you discovered. For example, a cat eats a bird who eats a worm who lives off the dirt. You can have your child draw each food chain item or cut them out of a magazine. Have them place them in the correct order on the food chain.

 

About Tara W.

With a passion for learning and teaching, Tara can frequently be found scouring the internet for the latest news and information. Tara is a mother of three, wife, writer, habitual researcher, social media maven and southern belle. She is currently homeschooling her kids through the University Model Schooling.  In her freetime, Tara enjoys trout fishing, hiking, camping, learning and going on small adventures with her family. Tara has mastered the art of the "staycation". The Wests can frequently be found searching for a new cave, park, lake or hiking trail to experience as a family and all within a 50 mile radius of their Arkansas home. Tara has taken her passion for research and a never-ending need to continue learning to Zoobean by using her skills to find the latest and greatest books, apps and resources for families with small children.

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