|Hunting for minibeasts.|
A bug safari in your back garden or the local park is a free and educational way to pass a bit of time. You don't really need anything, but you can add to the experience by taking a magnifying glass or one of those magnifying pots to see things up close, or you can lend the children a camera to take pictures of all the creatures they see on their trip. If you're lucky you might see a spider building a web or catching a fly. You might find an ant city made of lots of tunnels and be able to watch them hurrying to get their eggs underground when you expose them to the light. You might see a bumble bee collecting pollen til the yellow sacks on his legs are bulging.
|The Wiggley-White-One in his hole!|
Kids are not only able to identify minibeasts and describe their colours, shapes, number of legs etc but they can learn about their favourite habitats- dark and damp, dry and shady etc, and what they eat.
They can also learn a bit about whether they are garden friends or garden pests. When we made the veggie bed we employed the boys to find as many worms as they could around the garden and relocate them there to help mix the soil and compost so the veggies would have the best growing conditions. They also hunt ladybirds to put on my aphid infested roses, and understand that the flying insects they see on flowers are pollinating them which can make fruits develop.
|The "Biggest slug in the world!"|
We had a bit of fun with snails this year. We were in France on Danny's 4th birthday and persuaded him that in France you have to eat snails for a birthday treat. We duly found some in a lovely French market and both boys were game enough to try some with chips (in fact Zac ate about 20!) My sister-in-law told us that they feed them carrots until their pooh turns orange, so you know they haven't got anything nasty in their stomachs. Once home the boys had a collection of snails in an icecream tub with holes, all snacking on carrots until sure enough, their pooh did go orange!
|"Catty" Zac's furry caterpillar.|
|Cute and cuddly caterpillar!|
|Love 'em or hate 'em they're pretty amazing.|
I guess the other thing kids learn from looking for minibeasts is that we should be kind to other living things. When Zac was very young I handed him a baby snail I'd found. Thinking he would let it slime across his hand I was somewhat horrified when he promptly crushed it! We had a discussion about creatures being much smaller than us but still having feelings, and agreed that we should try to take care of them, and he seemed to get the message, though he still teases the cat at every opportunity.
An idea we haven't tried yet, but that I hope we will some day, is to make a bug hotel. Basically you make layers of things which will provide a habitat for all sorts of different creatures. If you include things with small holes, like bits of bamboo, and others with larger gaps you should get ladybirds, lacewings, bumble bees and all sorts nesting in there.We saw one at a local farm park and I took this picture for inspiration:
|A very grand example of a bug hotel!|
So, if you can, put any squeamishness aside and go on a bug safari. It doesn't cost anything and boys especially will probably enjoy it just as much as a trip to the zoo!