Bugs Bugs Bugs, Teaching Children Observational Skills

Tis the season for bugs to infest our lives.  They crawl, they fly, they tickle, and get into everything.  My children are delighted!  I have taken this as an opportunity to teach them about the small slimy world of bugs and encourage observational skills.  I know as an adult bugs are not as fascinating and can sometimes make you squeamish. However, teaching our children what they can and cannot touch, and to observe the many different types of bugs that exist can set them up for a life of tolerance and investigation.


To start our children off right there are many super cheap tools to encourage safe observation of our crawly friends.  We always begin our season with a magnifying glass, a net, and a plastic container to watch them through. All of which can be acquired at the dollar store or by reusing containers that would otherwise find their way into the recycling bin!  My daughter even got a bug vacuum as a gift.  It zapped up the bugs and allowed her to observe them through a magnified container.  Talk about hours of endless fun!

There are two main rules I ask my children to follow both for their safety and the safety of the bugs.

1.  Only touch a bug that you know is safe (inch worms, earthworms, lady bugs, praying mantis, moths, daddy long legs)

2.  Always let your bugs go free when you are done observing them so they can go home to their families.

Some bugs may be harmed in the process, however I feel it is important for my children to understand bugs have a place in nature and should not just be harmed for no reason (home visitors excluded).


Some child friendly bugs that are fun to interact with and are as safe as can be are; inch worms, earthworms, lady bugs, praying mantis, moths, daddy long legs.  They are the perfect insects to study and observe.  My favorite experiment happened when we found a caterpillar on a head of broccoli.  We gave him some food and a home and watched as he wove a cocoon around himself and turned into a moth.  This happened a year and a half ago and my daughter still talks about it!

As engaging as bugs can be for a small child it is important to develop our children’s observational skills.  Asking our children questions to help them focus can teach them how to look at the whole world in a more thoughtful way.  These are some questions I ask my children about their discoveries:

How does the bug move?

What colors are the bug?

What does the bug eat?

Does the bug turn into a different type of bug?  How?

What type of home does the bug have?

Sometimes we take it further by asking; How do you know? or;  How can you tell?  

Beginning these types of conversations can start a whole world of discussion and inquiry.  For older children they can even begin to try and draw what they see.  My daughter does not leave the house without something to draw with.   

To link these fun outside activities to some reading, a few of our favorite bug books are listed below!

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!


Hey! Little Ant


The Ultimate Bugopedia


Written by

Nicole Rowley


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