Minibeast safari

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By Karen Hartwriter

There’s no better way to learn than by hands-on experience, and looking for bugs and insects is a great way of getting children exploring their outside environment. Children are endlessly amazed by insect life, and rightly so – watching little creatures wriggle and crawl about their daily lives is fascinating. Make the topic of minibeasts a fun experience by allowing children to initiate their own learning through exploring and observation.

Introduce the bugs

Before you get stuck into the job of looking for bugs in their natural environment, have a couple of sharing assemblies on the subject of bugs and insects.

Minibeasts

  • Start by asking children what they think an insect is, focusing on any accurate facts that come up to help explain the facts, that insects have three parts to their body – head, thorax and abdomen, six legs, antennae to smell and feel their way around and wings to fly with
  • Show pictures of bugs throughout the world in books, magazines or the Poster, ‘Minibeasts’, and invite children to bring in any pictures or books on bugs they may have at home
  • Ask children to put their hands up if they have ever had an itchy insect bite, giving children the opportunity to share their stories, and prompt children by asking questions like; who has seen a spider in their house? Has anyone ever seen ants in their house, and why do you think they came in?
  • Read a selection of bug-related picture books, talking about the pictures and what they think might happen next.


Bringing bugs into your setting

It’s a lovely idea to bring some real bugs into the setting for children to have a good look at, and a great opportunity to talk about the importance of looking after small creatures and why they are so important to us, such as bees making honey and little insects helping to pollinate plants. Demonstrate their habitats by collecting some woodlice, for instance, together with leaf litter and small pieces of bark, and placing these in a deep tray. Children can then see how woodlice like to crawl under leaves and twigs, preferring dark, moist places.

Spiders are probably the best-known British garden bug – and least liked. But, they are fascinating, so try taking your children on a spider hunt in a local open space. Spiders are often found in sheds, under discarded containers or flower pots, or look for webs – but do point out that not all spiders live in webs. You could take some pencils, paper and drawing boards along so children can make a drawing of any spiders – or other bugs they see.

Another great garden creature to study is the garden snail. See if your group can catch some with the following activity which is a good one for looking at habitats.


Make a snail house

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