Bugs are a great way to show children the wonders of nature. And they can help children learn about endless concepts, like habitat (where they live and what they eat), lifecycles, counting (how many legs does this one have?), biology and other parts of nature like plants and trees.
The following is a list of play extension ideas might also help you find ways to expand on the children’s knowledge and experience! You will also find materials, as well as room setup and other considerations, at the bottom of the page.
- Talk about how insects pollinate plants
- Freeze little plastic insects in ice. Once frozen, encourage the children to use a hammer to break the insects from the ice. You might even want to try guessing how long it would take for the ice to melt all by itself, and then set up a timer and let the children observe and explore the bugs and ice with magnifying glasses.
- Visit a farm with bees and learn about bees and how honey is made. Talk about hives, how they work, and where you can find them.
- Set up an ant farm or worm composting bin and learn about how worms help make rich, healthy soil
- Set up a bug kit where can see bugs crawling around and eating
- Find out where all the bugs go in the wintertime or why so many bugs in the summer
- Discover the different types of insects from around the world
- Add a variety of insects that are safe for young children
- Containers for insects to crawl into
- Explore nature and look for different kinds of bugs with magnifying glasses
- Go butterfly catching with nets (make sure to talk about how delicate a butterfly’s wings are)
- Place fireflies in jars, turn off the light to view the fireflies in a dark area
- Sing and play songs about bugs
- Tell insect stories like Anansi folktales and The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Explore different kinds of insects. Count their legs and wings, and put them into different groups/bins. You can even make a chart!
- Show pictures of different kinds of bugs and insects. Compare and contrast them. Which ones are bigger or smaller? Which ones fly? Which ones live under the ground?
- Talk about where you find insects and bugs. Are there different bugs in the city and in the countryside?
- Talk about what kinds of animals eat insects. Talk about when insects are useful and necessary. For example: bees pollinate plants to help make our food.
Culture and diversity
- Have a discussion on how other cultures view creepy crawly things. For example, some bugs might be seen as scary, while others might be seen as good luck! (For example ladybugs and dragonflies)
- Talk about what kinds of bugs you had in your own home-country or that you’ve seen in your travels. Ask the children if they remember different kinds of bugs from places they’ve lived or travelled.
- What type of bugs do people around the world eat for protein? What are other ways that bugs help around the world?
- Encourage parents and children to collect bugs in their backyard or neighbourhood
- Provide parents with information about a local apiary (bee farm) Ask parents to share the name of different bugs in their language
- Take the bus to visit the library to gather movies or books
- Take a walk to a local garden to see what bugs and crawly things you can find
- Add items to the dress-up clothing to encourage insect role-playing. For example, striped or yellow material with black masking tape for bumblebees, antennae and wings, costumes and colourful scarves for butterflies and other insects
- Create a science lab that studies bugs. You can provide tools and materials like: a microscope and/or magnifying glasses, tongs and tweezers, clear cups, lab coats and ID cards, clipboards, paper and pencils, books and photos of different kinds of insects around the world.
- Beekeepers hats
- Create a camping area with tent and go bug hunting (use Mosquito nets to make the tent)
- Encourage the children to set up a bug museum or reptile zoo. They might even want to make tickets and signs, a cash register/ticket booth and play money!
Gross motor and movement
- Spider Web Walking Game
- Move or crawl like bugs, wiggle like worms or fly like butterflies
- Bug scavenger hunt
- Play a game of hopscotch and add pictures of bugs on the floor to step on
- Cut out big and small “bugs” and spread them out on the floor for the children to jump or hop on
Take the children on a nature walk
- Practice cutting out different insect shapes with scissors.
- Draw a frog with a nice big mouth, and have the children use tongs or tweezers to pick up little plastic bugs to “feed” into the mouth of a frog.
- Look at bugs and insects through the magnifying glasses
- Trace bugs
- Write names of bugs
- Design and draw your own bug – it can be whatever colour, shape or size the children would like!
- Learn about bugs together and talk about what you discover. Talk about how insects and bugs make us feel and why we feel that way. Notice and talk about the differences and similarities between insects and bugs.
- Sensory bottles with water and bugs and beads. The children can shake the bottle and look for the bugs hiding in the beads
- Colour spaghetti green and add bugs in the sensory bin
- Taste and touch honey. What does it feel like? What does it taste like?
Art and creative
- Create a caterpillar with tissue paper and cardboard
- Create a mural of insects
- Make bug farm
- Paint with honeycomb
- Bring in nature from the outdoors. Add boxes and creepy crawly things
- Use yarn to create a spider web around the room or on the ceiling
- Have the children use their imagination to make up new kinds of insects. Have them draw and tell you about them, and then act them out!
- Name of various insects
- Life cycle
- Numbers – count the legs of the insects
- Small and large
- Wings antenna
- Beehive, ant hill, nests
- Chrysalis, cocoon, larva, pupa
- Tadpole, frog spoorn
Different material ideas:
- Insects and crawling things
- Lady bugs
- Magnifying glasses or a microscope
- Insect books
- Tweezers and tongs
- Wings and antennae for children to dress up
- Flowers, flower petals
- Birds feeders
- Fly swatters
Room setup and considerations
- Create a large spider web in the corner of the room
- Have small pond for water insects (small swimming pool)
- Have an aquarium for insects