7 Activities to Teach Kids About Bugs

Seven ways to teach children about bugsDo you have a child who love creepy-crawlies?

Or maybe a child who is trying to overcome their fear of bugs?

I used to be bug-neutral. My motto was “Live and let live—but not in my house!”

Then I started paying attention. I even ended up creating a coloring book about bugs! In the process, I noticed how many bugs lived in my own yard, how detailed and delicate their wings were, and how important they are, even the unpopular ones.

Yes, we need bees to pollinate plants, but we also need those butterflies and moths that start out as annoying caterpillars in our gardens. Slugs, cockroaches and other “nuisance” creatures are valuable decomposers, breaking down leaf material to make rich soil for new plants. Ticks and mosquitoes are an important food source for birds and other insectivores.

Of course, as fascinating as bugs are, I do NOT recommend picking them up. 

Most insects are not dangerous to humans, but even non-venomous insects can have a painful pinch or bite. Plus, for bugs, it can be scary to be grabbed by a giant!

With that said, here are some fun, simple bug activities for your kids to try! Even if you don’t have a yard, find a nearby park or other green space and see what you can discover!

1. Look under a stone.

Many bugs hide under stones or logs during the day. If you lift the stone, you’ll probably find at least a couple bugs scurrying for safety. Just remember that this is their home, and make sure you put the stone back carefully when you’re done looking! 

If you have a yard or other outdoor space, you can even leave a bucket or a board outside and check it every couple of days to see what’s hiding underneath. We did this by accident once. It killed the grass underneath, but we left there for a while, because we got to watch the slugs, worms, spiders, and other tiny creatures whenever we wanted to (which was almost daily).

2. Sit & watch.

Insects are busy critters! Why not watch them for a while and see what they’re up to?

Can you find a spider working on its web in the evening? Can you follow an ant back to its nest? Or, if you find an ant nest, can you find a trail of ants and follow them to their food?

A child's hands shaking dead leaves over a white paper plate to find the bugs hiding in the leaves.

3. Shake some leaves.

This is an activity I learned at our local nature center. You might want to know how many bugs are hiding in a handful of dead leaves—but there are a ton!

Use a piece of paper or a paper plate as a tray, and gently shake a small handful of leaves over your paper. Then check the paper and see what you’ve found.

After you’ve counted all the obvious bugs, watch for another minute. If any of the tiny specks of dirt start jumping around the plate, it’s probably a bug.

4. Count the different species.

We don’t have a very large yard, but we can find dozens of different kinds of insects in a few square feet. On a warm day, we’ve found large flies, small flies, multiple types of bees, large beetles, tiny beetles, earwigs, and centipedes, as well as other non-insect critters like slugs, worms, and spiders.

Here’s a handy chart for playing bug bingo to help kids keep track of some of the common types of bugs they may find.

A small insect crawling around leaf debris on a white paper plate.

5. Build a bug house.

You may have seen articles about different threats to honeybees—but did you know that there are hundreds of other species of bees? Some of these, such as the Mason bee, are solitary bees, so they lay their eggs in small crevices, rather than large hives.

You can find bee houses as hardware stores or garden supplies, or you can build your own by bee house using either a block of untreated wood or a collection of hollow tubes.

If you don’t have outdoor space for a bee house, what about a terrarium? Some people keep jumping spiders or tarantulas as pets.

You can also look for a nature center or local nature group—they might be able to suggest volunteer activities in your area that would help your local insects, from setting up bug houses to planting wildflowers.

6. Visit a science center or zoo.

Many zoos and some children’s museums have bug displays. This can be a fun way to find more unusual species and learn about different types of bugs.

An iridescent blue-and-black butterfly resting on some leaves at a zoo exhibit.

7. Read a book about bugs.

Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time reading about bugs. One of our most recent favorites is The Big Book About Bugs, by Yuval Zommer. Here’s a list with some of the other picture books we’ve enjoyed over the past year.

Bonus activity for older kids: make a bug calendar.

Different insects follow different schedules. In our area, we sometimes find small green inchworms in the spring. In the fall, we find dozens of Woolly Bear caterpillars every time we go outside.

Use a notebook or calendar to keep track of when you see the first grasshopper early in the summer, or when the crickets start singing! Next year, you can come back and check whether the bugs appear earlier or later in the season.

Interested in even more? 

I’ve created a special set of bug-themed activities and coloring pages. Sign up here, and I’ll send it to you!

Two activity pages to teach kids about bugs