Is your child fascinated by bugs? I thought my daughter’s interest in lady bugs and fire flies was enough until I met the new neighbor boy. After moving in he promptly got to work hunting for new insects. This junior entomologist is also a good spokesperson; he single-handedly sparked a new interest. Suddenly all the kids were curious and more aware of these little creatures.
Unsure of how to nurture this interest? I have found that the following items can help.
Identify the creatures – The endless variety of insects requires a good field guide. While you can borrow a children’s book from the library, you may also want to keep a more complete reference guide in your home as well. Look for one with large photos or illustrations so they can figure out what bug is what. Consider looking in used bookstores first since little changes over the years make these books practically timeless.
Make bugs feel welcome – Set up a natural habitat if you have the space. Growing a butterfly bush or letting a small patch of insect attracting flowers, or weeds, grow can make observing easier.
Gather bug safari supplies – Collecting insects is an inexpensive hobby that can be encouraged at a young age. This simple activity may point your child to a career in science, or simply be a good distraction from their Xbox game.
- Net – A cheap net works just as well as a fancy net. In fact, you can even make a net out of a coat hanger and a piece of cheese cloth. Attach the net part to a lightweight dowel handle with duct tape and your explorer is ready to go.
- Collection box or jar – Any container that a child can handle is fine. While there are specialty collection boxes available, an empty plastic mayonnaise jar works just as well. Slip it in a small nap sack for easy handling.
- Display box – A trip to the local cigar shop can provide you with interesting, sturdy boxes for displaying the best specimens. Set a piece of foam inside and then mount with pins. Insect collectors use nylon-coated pins, but regular straight pins are fine for starting out. Just be aware they will eventually rust and ruin butterfly wings.
- Labels – Using the field guide, let your child record the name of the insect as well as where, when and how it was found. Field guides often contain important information about mounting particular insects.
- Camera – If collecting and displaying insects is too much for you, consider sending your little entomologist out with a camera to collect photos of their finds.
Take a hike – Your yard and neighborhood probably hold more varieties of insects than you care to imagine, but you can also take special trips to nearby farms or hiking trails through the woods to look for different bugs.
Set up a bug catcher – A cool trick my new neighbor taught us was to hang a white sheet over a tree branch and then focus a lamp behind it. The bugs are drawn to the sheet and create an interesting bug movie at night.
Collecting is a natural part of childhood that shouldn’t get pushed aside in lieu of fancy new toys and technology. Encourage hands-on discovery whenever you can. The benefits of self-directed learning last a lifetime.
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