Tag Archives: Bugs & Insects

The Best Bug Books

Within this unit, I’ve listed activities for many books about bugs, but there are certainly more to be considered!  Here are a few I’ve enjoyed with many a little one.  Please comment with your own favorites as well!  I’m always up for a new read!

Miss Spider's Tea Party (Scholastic Bookshelf)

Miss Spider’s Tea Party  by David Kirk is a fun rhyming read that mixes the concept of friendship with counting, while introducing a myriad of creepy crawly characters along the way.  You may also want to check out the simplified counting book version, or other titles in the Miss Spider series.

Bumblebee, Bumblebee, Do You Know Me? A Garden Guessing Game

Bumblebee, Bumblebee, Do You Know Me? by Anne Rockwell mixes bugs and plants in a guessing game format for one fantastic summertime read.

The Icky Bug Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta's Alphabet Books)

Icky Bug Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta lists a bug for every letter and gives brief, factual information about each one.  From the ants to the zebra butterflies this icky book keeps kids reading!  Don’t forget to include other informational, non-fiction bug books in your collection!  Especially when it comes to creepy crawlies, sometimes truth is stranger – and more fascinating – than fiction.

The Flea's Sneeze

In The Flea’s Sneeze, by Lynn Downey, a teeny tiny flea with a cold causes mayhem in a drowsy barnyard.  A simply silly book with perfect rhythm and rhyme for supporting phonemic awareness.

If you’re looking for a read-aloud or books for older children, consider some favorites from your own childhood, like James and the Giant Peach with its wonderfully oversized buggy characters; the  1961 runner-up for the Newberry Award, The Cricket in Times Square; or the timeless classic, Charlotte’s Web.

And in case you missed them, here are the book activities listed here previously:

Eric Carle Author Study:

There Was an Old Lady

Butterfly Life Cycle

What are your favorite books starring the creepy and crawly?


Top photo by bluedaisy.

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized

Spider Cookies To Tickle Your Child’s Tastebuds!

“There was an old lady who swallowed a spider, that wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her…”

 Here’s a snack that will build fine motor skills, counting ability, and an understanding of the characteristics of arachnids – oh, and of course, it’s tasty too!

Create a two-part body from your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or store-bought dough), by using two cookie cutters or by rolling one larger and one smaller ball, then flattening them into each other.  Baked, it looks like this:

Then supply those little ones with frosting or Nutella, licorice string, and mini M&Ms, and talk about all the parts of a spider as they spread, count, and decorate their way to a tasty, educational treat!

You could also create other bugs, including some of the characteristics from this bug activity!

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 
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Spiders Vs Insects- Breaking it Down for Preschoolers


Spiders and insects are often lumped together, but there are some significant differences that even young children can begin to recognize.  Noting the difference between insects and spiders isn’t just important for discerning between the two “in the wild”, but the act of comparing and classifying is perfect for practicing logic, reasoning, and science skills. 

This three-part activity may take a lot of words to describe here in the blogosphere, but it’s really quite simple, very effective, and loads of fun!


To start, you need to be prepared with playdough and pipe cleaner segments.  Use them to create as you discuss the parts of an insect, and then of a spider.  Let’s start with the insect.  (Find more info on insect body parts here.) 


Point out that insects have three  body parts (head, thorax, abdomen).  Create three balls with the playdough and connect them together, looking a bit like an ant.  Explain that sometimes these body parts are similar sizes, but sometimes they look differently.  For a beetle, the thorax is smaller and the abdomen is longer and wider (manipulate playdough accordingly).  Or you may have a very long and skinny abdomen like a dragonfly.  But every insect has three body parts (go back to three fairly equal balls like an ant). 

Another characteristic of all insects is six legs.  Insert the six pipe cleaner  segments as you count them out.  Lastly, most insects have a set of antennae for smelling or feeling (insert another set of pipe cleaners or toothpicks).  Add that many insects also have wings and discuss a few examples.  Now you have a lovely ant-like sculpture.  Set that one down and let’s get to the spider!


For your spider discussion, follow in a similar way, narrating and building as you go, showing how the parts may differ for different types of spiders (big round abdomen or long skinny abdomen, etc.).  A spider will have two body parts (the cephalothorax, or head, and an abdomen), eight legs, and usually eight eyes (I create the eyes by pricking the dough with a toothpick, leaving eight holes).  Spiders will not have antennae or wings.  You may want to include other spider facts you can find here.

Map It Out

Now that you’ve discussed the difference between the two, map it out on a Venn diagram.  These diagrams are great for sorting information with young children.  A Venn diagram teaches sorting and classifying in a very visual way.  (If you need a quick refresher on Venn diagrams, click here and scroll down to “Example”.)  Children are usually very quick to catch on to this logical, graphic organizer.

When doing Venn diagrams with preschoolers, I usually use two hula hoops or a very large embroidery hoop and just lay them on the floor, though you can also buy Venn diagram pocket charts like this one, or just draw circles on a white board.  Then, place your two creations, one in each circle to represent their own side of the diagram.  Then sort index cards with words and pictures into the parts of the diagram.  I used these for my cards, but you may want to make different ones depending on the additional information you deliver:

Has 8 legs./Has 6 legs. (Spider/Insect)

Has 3 body parts./Has 2 body parts. (Insect/Spider)

Needs food. (Both)

Is alive. (Both)

Can have antennae and wings. (Insect)

Can have 8 eyes! (Spider)


As the culminating activity, have the children create their own insects or spiders.  Each child gets a lump of playdough and access to toothpicks, pipe cleaner segments, and tissue paper or wax paper (for wings).  Explain that they might want to create something they’ve seen before, like an ant, or a black widow spider, or a butterfly; or they might want to create a new kind of insect or spider that we’ve never even heard of!

As they create, talk to them about what they’re making, incorporating some of the information you’ve presented (“Oh, I see you have 8 legs on your creature!  Does that mean it’s a spider?”), but keep in mind that these are their own personal creations.  Assess the children by talking with them, not just by looking at what they’ve made.  Some children will create a picture perfect spider with two body parts, eight legs, eight eyes, and a set of chelicera to boot!  With that child you may simply point out those attributes and ask if it is indeed a spider.  Another child may have a creature with eight legs, a set of wings, and three body parts.  With that child, you may point out that this is a very unique creature!  It has both insect parts and spider parts!  Then ask the child to point out which is which along with you.

Now you’ve not only gone over specific scientific information, practiced some counting, sorting and categorizing, and done some finger-strengthening creating, but your lucky children each have an insect, or spider (or spider-insect) to take home as a lovely pet! 

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Ant image by rick1611.
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Filed under Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

From Caterpillar to Butterfly – Teaching Preschoolers About the Magical Metamorphosis

If you ask a group of preschoolers to name their favorite insect or bug, chances are you’ll get quite a few votes for the butterfly.  They’re beautiful, gentle bugs, and their metamorphosis is simply spectacular.  If you have little ones interested in the butterfly life cycle, particularly if you are using the butterfly habitat, you might want to try this activity!

Once Upon a Time…

Start out with a book. You can rarely go wrong when Step 1 is a great story!  I like Butterfly Spring by Robin Koontz. (It’s not widely available, but you can find it here. It looks like this might be a similar book as well.)  The book uses great prose to follow a butterfly from its humble start as an egg, to caterpillar, then chrysalis, and finally to butterfly, which then lays more eggs.  It is a great example of a complete cycle, with wonderful little tid-bits of butterfly science facts along the way.  (For example, did you realize butterflies can taste flowers with their feet?!)

The Circle of Life

After the story, I use some prepared cards with the four phases of the butterfly’s life.  You can make these very quickly.  Make about three of each- egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. 

I set out an egg card, and ask the children what comes next.  The caterpillar follows, and on, and on to the butterfly, at which point I ask again, “What comes next?”  Since the butterfly lays eggs, we place another egg card in the series.  Continue on until someone points out that it’s a pattern, or until you run out of cards.

Talk about the repeating nature of this pattern.  Ask the children how long they think this pattern could continue.  Forever!  Since this pattern would go on and on, we use a different picture to show that. 

Place the cards into a prepared chart with the life cycle printed on it.  Talk about the term “Life Cycle” and discuss how the circle continues on and on. 

Learning about life cycles is not just important to understanding the butterfly’s metamorphosis, but it is an important general life science concept.  Additionally, it introduces the common notation for life cycles, which may seem obvious to us as adults, but understanding this graphic representation is a major milestone for our little ones! 

Discuss life cycles as they become pertinent to other topics you study (seeds fit well here).  Use the same notation to reinforce the graphic representation.

Fast Track

As you discuss the butterfly’s life cycle you may want to check out this great clip on YouTube.  It shows the metamorphosis in fast forward.  This can be great to use if your children are becoming impatient as your own chrysalids are still “under construction”, or if the butterflies emerged when the children were not around to observe.  Be sure to explain to the children that this video is sped up, and that the process does not really go this quickly!

Enjoy exploring this fascinating transformation together!

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Top photo by Leonardini.

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Bonus Eric Carle Activity: The Very Quiet Cricket

The Very Quiet Cricket

Here’s one more for you Eric Carle aficionados! 

The Very Quiet Cricket is another great one to add to your collection of buggy Eric Carle books.  This is the story of a young cricket who hatches from an egg one warm morning, and goes about meeting many interesting creatures, but is unable to chirp his hello until he meets a special friend. 

The story structure is similar to others I’ve mentioned here, but that’s part of what makes it great for making comparisons in an author study!  Similarly, the repetitive text in this and other Eric Carle books are perfect for preschoolers because it encourages them to “read” along and begin to associate words and print and to recognize the patterns in story structure. 

tin can phone by K!T.

After the story, explore how crickets make their chirping sound.  (You can read more about it here.)  To put it very simply, their wings are basically made like a violin and bow, with a violin on top of each wing and a bow on the bottom.  The cricket can rub either wing on top of the other to make his unique sound. 

If you have access to a violin or similar instrument, use that to teach the concept.  If not, you can use a set of tin can phones!  Hold the phones so that the line is taut.  Dampen a small sponge and use it to pinch the line and drag it along.  You should get a unique sound, amplified by the “phones”! 

Talk about sound as a vibration and think of other ways to explore the science of sound as vibrations.

For more bug-themed activities, as well as links to all Eric Carle author study activities, click here!

Tin can phone photo by K!T.
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Creating Preschool Entomologists – Bringing the Bugs Inside

BUG IN A JAR - July 2003 by the bridge.

When it comes to exploring bugs, you just can’t really beat bug collecting as an activity!  Getting bugs into an enclosure -whether it’s the time-honored classic jar with air-holes in the lid, or something like this– allows children to look closely at the bugs to examine their characteristics.  Having a barrier not only keeps the bug in one place, but it often makes little ones feel a bit less skittish. 

We’re Going on a Bug Hunt

A bug hunt is a lot of fun, but it also helps the child to become more familiar with the bug’s environment and needs.  Children soon learn that they can find more bugs under a rock than on the sidewalk.  You can talk about why that is, and what needs are being met in the different environments.  Children also have to be aware of what the bugs need if they are going to keep them in the enclosure for much more than about an hour.  What kind of food do they need?  What kind of things can be added to make their environment similar to where they were found?  Answering these questions through careful observation requires the child to use scientific inquiry.

Feeling Sluggish

While you’re out catching bugs, may I suggest one amazing specimen to observe?  Garden snails are a menace, but I caught a few to observe with some children a while back, and it was amazing to watch them at work!  You can quickly learn why they are such pests when you watch them devour a leaf right before your eyes!  Watching as they climb up the side of the container gives a unique view of the wave-like undulations that propel these crazy creatures.  I detest these intruders in my garden, but in a container, they fill me with child-like wonder!  I realize they aren’t insects, but I would put them in the creepy-crawly category for preschool purposes.

Bug Sources

In addition to your own backyard, there are a lot of other sources that can provide you with unique bug-observation experiences.  Here are a few suggestions to consider.  (Just so you know, none of these are paid sponsors.  Just places I’ve seen or used.)

  • Watch the Metamorphosis!  I’ve had very good results with this Butterfly Garden from Insect Lore .  You receive caterpillars in the mail (complete with their own food) and within about three weeks, you have butterflies that you can release in your own backyard.  When we received our most recent batch, my son and I broke dry spaghetti noodles into the same sizes as the five caterpillars and taped them to a paper as a reference point for comparison later.  It’s absolutely amazing to see how quickly these guys grow!
  • Try Gel Ant Farms!  I haven’t used one of these myself, but our local library did, and my son would have stared at them all day if he could have!  You can check out a  wide variety on Amazon.
  • Go Organic!  Organic garden supply stores usually carry beneficial insects that can be released in your garden as natural pesticides.  I know in the garden center at one of our local grocery stores, about $5 could buy you a package filled with Ladybugs or a Praying Mantis egg case.  The egg case can be placed in a garden and allowed to hatch Praying Mantis nymphs while you observe these unique new tenants.  Ladybugs are fantastic bugs to have children examine as they gently hold them in their own hands(while sitting outside, so the bugs can fly away without becoming trapped in a room).
  • Find the Sugar Ants!  Now this is NOT one I want to bring inside, but I noticed yesterday how quickly sugar ants will swarm a cookie accidentally dropped at the park.  I also noticed how fascinated young children are with watching that sea of black at work!  As long as you promise to clean it up afterward, you might “bait” some sugar ants while playing outside.  (Parks are perfect for this because the ants are used to finding sugar there!)  Set out a cookie or orange slice and check on it periodically while you play.  Bring magnifiers to get a closer look, and maybe use the opportunity to talk about the importance of cleaning up so that the insects that are so fascinating outside don’t become a pest inside!


Encourage children to internalize the information they gathered through their observations by making sketches of their bugs.  Drawing an image requires them to recall the information they just acquired and use it in a meaningful way, which helps comprehension. 

You could also extend this bug viewing activity by having your children dictate fanciful stories or non fiction books about the bugs you encountered.  Put their words into print and have them illustrate the book – or illustrate with photos.  It will become one of their favorite books and they’ll build language and literacy skills along the way!

Have fun getting buggy with your young entomologists!

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Top photo by the bridge.
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Eric Carle Author Study: The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

The Grouchy LadybugThe Grouchy Ladybug always catches me off-guard, because it seems to be missing the “Very”.  You know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and…..The Grouchy Ladybug.  I guess he’s just a little grouchy.

Well, this ladybug, who’s feeling a little bit grouchy, lands on the same aphid-laden leaf as another ladybug, who’s not feeling the least bit grouchy.  One ladybug suggests they share, the other insists they’re all for him (I’m sure you can guess which was which).  The rest of the story follows the grouchy ladybug as he goes from one creature to the next, each bigger than the one before, trying to pick a fight.  He ends up trying to pick a fight with a whale, whose tail smacks him all the way back to that same aphid-laden leaf.  There, the polite ladybug offers again to share, and this time Mr. Grouchy realizes his life is much easier when he tries to get along. 

I can see where some might shy away from this book, as each page includes the dialogue, “Do you want to fight?”  But I think you can really turn that around and talk about how grumpy the ladybug is being, that he’s making poor choices, and that he’s having a bad day because of those choices.  I like to point out how much more cheerful the ladybugs are when they’re sharing with each other.

In addition to highlighting social skills, you can easily use this book to focus on a variety of math skills like size (with the animals in gradually increasing sizes), time, and number recognition.  You can throw in a science discussion as well, as you talk about the relationships between the aphids, the leaf, and the ladybugs.

While there are plenty of directions you could take for your activity, here are two I’ve used.

Counting by 2’s Ladybug Style

Draw a simple ladybug shape and put the same number of black dots on each side.  Make corresponding number cards.  Use the cards as a counting and matching activity, to reinforce counting by twos, or basic addition.  I like to set out the number cards, and then give the children the ladybugs and have them find the right “home” for the ladybug.  By watching how they accomplish this task, I can learn a lot about their math skills.

Number Time


I’ve also made these simple clocks to use as an extension of this story.  (Each page begins with the time, on the hour.)  I used a sturdy Chinet plate, wrote numbers (somewhat unevenly, I now notice) around the edges of the back.  Then, I drew the minute hand, pointing at the 12, and inserted a movable hour hand using a brass brad. 

You can use this quick clock to work on telling time on the hour, but I think the major skill here is simple numeral recognition.  I may give a clock to a child and ask her to show me 3 o’clock.  Or I may do the reverse, showing her the clock and asking for the time.  In either instance, the child is learning about telling time, but she’s also making critical connections between the written and spoken labels for each numeral.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (Eric Carle's Very Series)The Very Clumsy Click Beetle tells of a poor soul, trapped on his back, desperately trying to flip back over.  With some coaching from an elder Click Beetle, and  a lot of perseverance, the young whippersnapper finally finds his feet on the ground.

Take the opportunity to talk about patience, practice, and persistance with this story!

After reading, do some movement activities! Naturally, somersaults are at the top of the list!  (Make sure that you have the children attempt the skill one at a time to avoid collisions!)  You could also do an obstacle course with a low balance beam, tunnels for crawling, and a hula hoop as a target for one big, long jump!  Throw in some expressive movements, by challenging the children to move like spiders, butterflies, or grasshoppers.  Activities like these use large motor skills, support physical development, and truly help children make active connections to reading!

Find links to all the Eric Carle activities in this unit.

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 



Filed under Building Readers, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity