Fun Friday: Build a Roly-Poly Terrarium

Fun Friday activities are quick-and-simple ways to explore nature in your own backyard

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The Idea
Build a roly-poly terrarium to serve as a temporary indoor home for our roly-poly friends from the backyard.

About a month ago, we created a “Bug World” in our backyard. Since then, The Big Explorer has been checking regularly for signs of inhabitants. And sure enough, there have been plenty of visitors of the roly-poly persuasion. On several occasions, my son has asked if he could keep a few in his room.

Fast forward to last weekend when we attended the Natural History Museum’s Bug Fair. During our brief visit, we met someone who told us how we could ensure our roly-poly friends would survive: build them a terrarium.

Soon after coming home, I googled “roly-poly terrarium” and found some instructions, which seemed simple enough and sealed the deal for me. And so this week, we created our own.

Build a roly-poly terrarium

Our notes from the field
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to build your own roly-poly terrarium. In fact, all you need is:

  • A plastic container
  • Dirt
  • Weeds
  • Whatever else you might want to add, like rocks, sticks or wood
  • Roly-polies

Since we already had a plastic bug container that had previously housed one of our adopted caterpillars, we were ready to head outside.

I love this activity for its simplicity. I asked The Big Explorer what he thought would make his roly-polies feel at home, and he searched our yard to find everything we needed.

First we added a couple of inches of dirt. Then we searched for a weed to add so the little guys would have something to munch on. This one’s a little weak looking, but we can always swap it out later.

Build a roly-poly terrarium

After transplanting the weed into the container, The Big Explorer searched for other items he thought would be fun for his bugs. He chose rocks and sticks – so they’d have a way to get around, of course. (Upon advice from the expert at the Bug Fair, I also added a few carrot and potato bits, which he assured me roly-polies love.) Here’s a shot of what it looked like before we added the roly-polies.

Inside a roly-poly terrarium

Once their home was just right, The Big Explorer went looking for the perfect inhabitants. He picked up the overturned flower pot that’s always been a favorite spot for the bugs and whammo – tons of the little guys!

Gathering roly-poly bugs

This was definitely the most fun part of the activity – picking up the bugs and setting them down in the perfect spot.

After that, we spritzed on a little water and closed the lid. The Big Explorer was transfixed for quite a while, watching the little guys explore their new home.

Checking out the roly-poly terrarium

We brought the terrarium into his room, where he is lovingly watching the activities of his roly-poly friends several times a day. Not only is he happy to have some bugs inside, but he (and I) are learning lots about roly-polies!

Take-home tips
I was amazed how simple and quick it was to set up home for some of our more common backyard critters. To ensure success:

  • Choose a decent container. Our travel size bug container cost less than $5 at a pet store and was well worth it. The removable lid is handy if you need to swap out a plant or add something new. Plus it comes with built in air holes and is clear, making observation a snap.

  • Pick a safe place to house the terrarium. This is important in our home, which we share with two cats and a 2 year old. We made sure to pick a spot that’s out of reach of little hands and paws and also one that doesn’t get too much heat.
DIY roly-poly world

More ideas for outdoor fun
There seems to be no end to ideas for enjoying nature with kids. Whether you’ve got 10 minutes or an entire morning, consider getting out there and trying one of these activities:

  • Create leaf rubbings like Amy of The Wonder Years
  • Design your own wind streamers with help from The Little Humbugs
  • Go fossil hunting with Nancy at The Magnifying Glass
  • Make nature cards with treasures from the outdoors like Jodi at Kids Discover Nature
  • Create a nature walk in your own backyard! Check out this one over on Natural Kids

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful weekend exploring the outdoors!

We Play

This post is just one of many dedicated to play at the Childhood 101 “We Play” link up. Head on over for more ideas!

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  1. says

    @Gillian: Roly polies are found in dirt, especially under things like pots. If you place a pot over a spot of dirt, you can anticipate having roly polies appear under said pot within a day. Good luck!

  2. Gillian says

    Where do you find roly polies in your yard?? I would like to know… We just can&#39;t find one… I would really like to know where to look and where they live. If anyone would answer my question it would be greatly appreciated! <br />Thanks!

  3. Julie says

    My daughter Ella (4) has been collecting roly polys. And every morning when she checks on them they are not doing so well. 🙁 She is super excited to try and make a home for them. Thanks for the detailed description of how to do it.

  4. says

    Love this! I think I have a similar container tucked away in our attic space, so I&#39;m going to have to go dig that out! I love your blog…just about every entry has me inspired to try something new w/ my little guy!

  5. Melissa says

    That’s awesome and so simple. I don’t know what it is with boys & bugs, my boys love them too.

  6. says

    Christie, glad to learn a new Australian word! :)<br /><br />Alissa, thanks for stopping by!<br /><br />Kelly, boys &amp; bugs seem like a natural connection. Don&#39;t be afraid to let your little guy get exploring!

  7. says

    This is awesome. My little boy is just starting to be interested in bugs and stuff. I love this sort of outdoors stuff. Love your blog.

  8. says

    I was wondering what roly-polies were and then realised we call them slaters! LOL<br /><br />Immy has recently discovered them in our garden and is fascinated and I think this would be a great project to support her emerging interest. Thank you.

  9. says

    Juliet, this was definitely fun for the big explorer and yet totally simple.<br /><br />Mel, the roly-polies have dug into their new home. Once in a while they make their appearance on the surface, but they seem pretty busy under there!<br /><br />Carolina, I&#39;ve got that many years of roly-polies ahead of me?! LOL! :0

  10. says

    This looks like a summer project for us..My kid is going on 9 and he still comes show me all the poleys he finds outside.

  11. says

    You know I want to do this now! We have the ant farm on the mantle (away from dogs and a not-quite-two-year-old) and we are planning to collect tadpoles at the end of the month. Can I fit a pill bug (that&#39;s what I call them 🙂 container somewhere? We need a bigger house! Can&#39;t wait to see the update on this!