It's finally that time of year, the days are getting longer and we are spending more and more time outside. Some of us even have a yard, a vegetable garden or a small outdoor patch the kids enjoy exploring. It is the perfect time to introduce the life of bugs! I am no expert, and I'm not a bug-lover, but I do think it's important for us to understand the importance of different bugs, and what they really do underground or when they are flying around.
Some children are timid around bugs, others are fascinated. I have one kid who used to totally freaking out when an ant approached her and still has a fear of spiders, and another kid that once ate an ant. In any case, I think what really helps with the fear of bugs is getting to know them, and how important their job is in nature. So start with the most "friendly" bugs; perhaps a butterfly? a lady bug? a rolly polly? then move on to earthworms, and bees.
We think a good way to start is by reading some books. Jam and Honey is a sweet book telling of an afternoon snack from a human girl perspective and a little bee's perspective; An Earthworm's Life is an informative book, and Nature's Day has some sweet illustrations and bits of information about a variety of bugs and insects. Of course, the classic book Charlotte's Web can help children aged 5-8 understand the world of a spider and is just so wonderful in capturing a life on a farm.
Another way to approach the topic is by showing them some videos of the importance of bees, how butterflies come to life or how spiders spin webs. Here are some short and sweet clips:
The next step is meeting them in person and gardening is a great opportunity to show them how everything comes together. Some kids will be happy to start digging with their hands or a plastic spoon and find little treasures, some will prefer to be observers, we just need to support them with whatever they're comfortable with.
We've created a BUG OBSERVATION ACTIVITY SHEET that will help them notice how each insect is different, and get familiar with their different features.