Friday, May 4, 2012

Learning about Creepy Crawlies

Creepy Crawlies

You'll find that a lot of children's insect books will mix worms, pill bugs, centipedes, milipedes and arachnids (spiders, mites and scorpions) in with the insects.  Although these are not, in fact "bugs" zoologically speaking, they all certainly fall into the "creepy crawly" category for many of us.  Bugs and their "creepy crawly" companions are incredibly important in our own food production, health and waste decomposition.  Kids that feel an appreciation for bugs and who know which ones are dangerous and which are not will be more comfortable and confident during outdoor activities.  They will also be safer because they will know how to act around insects, arachnids and other small creatures found in the garden.  You can help kids feel less "creepy" about these crawlies by simply learning more about them.  Open their worlds and opportunities by taking a closer look at "bugs".

Once you've done a little research and learned a little about what you might find, there are all kinds of craft projects you can do, including this egg carton craft (if you are a little too creeped out to actually go looking for the real thing) but there are also tons of kits and tools available for study of a specific insect in the home, or for catching, studying and releasing bugs right in your own back-yard.  Have a fun "insect hike" or dig through some compost (wear gloves!) and see what critters you can find there.  You can grow an "ant farm", a "worm ranch" and order lady bugs to protect your roses from aphids.  Please be responsible about making sure any insect (or other creepy crawly) you purchase is a local one before releasing it into the wild and have fun!

Summer Birds, shown at right, is a wonderful book that will tell your child a little bit about mideival beliefs about insects including the belief in spontaneous generation while it also teaches kids about metamorphosis.  The illustrations are brilliant and clear.  I highly reccomend this gem.

Almost any of the visual encyclopedias out there can be wonderful non-fiction "reading" for even the very young.  Examples include Insiders Insects and Spiders, Noel Tait; World of Animals 26: Insects 5, Ken Preston; - Mafham, DK Publishings's "Eye Wonder series" Bugs (DK is Wonderful - check more options out at, or The whole "Minibeasts" Series by Smart Apple Media: Minibeasts In the Compost Heap, Minibeasts In the Home, Minibeasts On a Plant, Minibeasts In a Pond, Minibeasts In the Soil, and Minibeasts Under a Stone.

The entire "Backyard Books" series, Are you a ___________ is also cute, well illustrated and fun.  My three year olds LOVED them when I taught preschool.  Fill in the blank with any of the more popularly known "bugs" such as ant, dragonfly or grasshopper and you have a fun take on that insect's life cycle your child/ren and you can enjoy together.  These books are by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries and I've mentioned Are You a Ladybug and Are you a Butterfly in other posts as well.

For the particularly young, Eric Carle has a number of books about "Creepy Crawlies"  The most popular is the classic Very Hungry Caterpillar.  However he also did one about a click beetle, a Grouchy ladybug, a Very Busy Spider and a Very Quiet Cricket.  If you include creepy crawlies at the seashore there is also A Home for Hermit Crab and probably others.  Lois Ehlert's Waiting for Wings is wonderful with Whimsical, but illustrative pictures, and finally, Leo Lionni's Inch by Inch is a also a fabulous journey all about crawling inch by inch.

National Geographic Kids Science Fair Winners Series: Bug Science by Karen Romano Young and Illustrated by David Goldin includes insects, arachnids, isopods (rolypolies) and worms.  This book contains great ideas for simple experiments kids can do with and about bugs of different kinds. A bug supply may be required for some experiments.  For the sake of experiments and surveys in the book that require keeping and maintaing bugs, the book includes information about how to catch bugs, raise bugs, keep bugs healthy for a period of time, and all things a person needs to know to keep bugs.  The book also includes a handy guide at the end with tips and suggestions about how to present the experiment as a science fair project if your child will be participating in a science fair. 

All I can say about is, you won't believe it till you see it!  AMAZING:

Insect Lore For fun games and activity ideas relating to insects and Earthworms.

Let's Talk about Insects by the University of Illinois Extension is an animated description of insect basics and vocabulary.

Stein's Virtual Insectory has lots of great photos and  a little information to accompany those photos.

US Geological Survey Biological Resources: Use this one with older kids that might like to go on a bug hike.  Identification tools as well as other entomological information regionally segregated hosted by the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.

The Bug Club is a website (and club with a published magazine and all) for young amateur entomologists.

Teacher's Pages:These sites include a variety of links to websites with lesson plans, crafts or bug-related activities including "tasty" insect recipes. and

Bill Nye the Science Guy - Spiders:  As usual, Bill Nye's movie offers up humor zaniness and all kinds of entertainment while it also educates.

Eyewitness DVD - This video includes stunning visual images with narration performed by Martin Sheen to help us understand more about what it is we are seeing.

Animal Life in Action - Ansects and other Arthropods

Whatever you do have fun with it, and do your best to be amazed with the cool things these creepy crawlies do rather than creeped - it'll help your child feel more confident outdoors to know that while some things may bite and caution should be used, many "bugs" are perfectly harmless.  Because your child will know the difference between them he or she might even suddenly become more helpful with the outdoor chores. A person can dream can't she? 

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