In honor of this being National Wildlife Week, I thought it was the perfect time for a post about kids and bugs.
After all, bugs and other crawly critters are far and away the most popular forms of wildlife the kids see here in the big city. Whether we’re out on the trail, in the school garden or in our own backyard, the bugs always draw shrieks of excitement from the kids – and help form an instant connection to the natural world.
While it’s true not all kids like bugs, going on a bug hunt is still fun – especially if you take along some friends. After all, the more eyes looking out for critters, the better! Here’s how to make your next adventure a success, even for the most squeamish among you.
Bring the right tools.
A bug container, bug tweezers and a magnifying glass are pretty much essential. A butterfly net can be helpful, too.
Kid-sized tweezers make grabbing fairly simple, even for little ones (provided the critters you find are safe to touch, of course). Store your catch in a bug container long enough to examine it close up without fear of it crawling or flying away. Just be sure to release it where you found it!
Know where to look.
Backyard bugs can usually be found under things, like potted plants, rocks or other heavy items. If you’re on the trail, look for bugs in flowers and trees or near water.
Search for signs of bugs, too.
Finding bugs is thrilling, but so are signs of bugs or bug homes. Spider webs and vacated cocoons are good examples. My kids are also enthralled with dead bugs, so don’t be too quick to discourage curiosity in whatever form it comes.
Take your time.
Bugs are easy to miss if you’re walking too fast. Most are small and many have the gift of camouflage, making them tough to spot at first glance. Take it slow and let your eyes roam the area for anything that moves. You might even want to pick one place and hang out for a while.
Try to stay quiet.
I know what you’re thinking – how is staying quiet possible with kids? But you’d be surprised how willing kids are to listen and be still when looking for bugs and other wild critters. And once you’ve spotted one – and you will, trust me – even the littlest of kids seems instinctively to know to be still and enjoy their new toy. At least for a little while!
Talk about your discoveries.
Almost the second we spot a bug, the kids are asking what it’s called and whether it’s a “good” bug or a “bad” bug – something they connect with garden pests and helpers. Consult a field guide to learn more about your finds.
Note: A condensed version of this post originally appeared on BackpackBaseCamp.com.