Not too many people (myself included!) are fond of bugs, but before you cast these creatures off as “creepy crawlies,” it’s important to understand they can actually provide a huge learning experience for your kids. Plus, it’s an easy way to get children interested when it comes to nature.
So why not help them to learn a little bit more about bugs? After all, a study from Carleton University found that children who are exposed to nature early end up growing up with more respect for the planet.
If you’re wondering how exactly to teach your kids about bugs, here some tips on how you can get started…
Read books about bugs
Books are an easy way to approach any new topic and for some insightful reads, I highly recommend titles like How to Survive as a Firefly by Kristen Foote, or Elise Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series. These are fun, simple, and highly engaging thanks to the interesting characters. Most of all, you hit two birds with one stone – helping your kids learn about bugs and improving their reading skills at the same time. If you want a book on the hard facts side of things, a good old almanac like National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs is great.
Talk like a scientist
Contrary to popular belief, bugs have more than just scrawny legs and antennas. When explaining this to kids, don’t be afraid to get a little scientific, and introduce them to terms like “thorax” or “abdomen”. Once you’ve established the basics, you can even talk to them about the importance of processes like pollination, and how crucial it is to the ecosystem. Besides, research in the Journal of Developmental Psychology notes that people retain information better at a young age, so there’s no harm in getting them used to these terminologies early.
A huge reason why insects are such a good topic to introduce ecology is because of the hands-on experiences they can have. For instance, you can plan insect hunts in your backyard or at a nearby park. Of course, just be sure to treat the bugs carefully if you decide to catch some. Your containers should have enough soil and leaves in them to ensure they survive. This could also be a good time to teach them that most bugs are actually plant-eaters. After a couple of days of bug-watching, get your child to release the bugs back into their natural habitat.
Observe the bugs at home
Your backyard isn’t the only place that can be housing these little critters. In fact, they could be right inside your own home. While your first instinct may be to swat them away, you can instead use it as another opportunity to help your kids get up close and personal with bugs to understand the other environments in which they thrive.
For instance, an article on Hunker notes that certain insects can be found in areas that are humid and wet. Why is that? Well, humid spaces (like in your kitchen or bathroom) cause mould, which is a type of fungus that breaks down dead, organic materials, explains HomeServe’s Andy Floyd. In turn, mould is what attracts bugs—or more specifically, mould mites. Fortunately, these bugs are harmless and don’t do any damage to your furniture. They may even help get rid of any mould. Other household bugs like ants and beetles have ecological benefits that are cool to learn about as well.
Every child should get the opportunity to learn more about insects. As mentioned above, the most important thing is for your kids to realise they’re living, breathing beings too. Maybe knowing about these bugs will help them to be more conscious of their existence.
For more things you can do to teach your kids about bugs and nature, check out my post ‘52 Free Things to Do Outdoors with Kids’.
Do your kids like going on bug hunts and learning about insects?