How to teach your children about bugs – and make it a worry-free adventure
Want to teach your children not to fear insects? Here’s how to teach your children about bugs – and make it a worry-free adventure.
While it’s true that some bugs can be dangerous and should be avoided, there are many more than are harmless, and fascinating and important contributors to the eco-system we all need to survive.
Children have a natural fascination with insects, so take advantage of this to teach them about the creatures we share our world with and how they live. The more they understand about and respect biology and ecology, the more they can take a responsible role in our planet’s future.
So while teaching your children about the bugs you can find in your garden and local countryside may sound like a small step, it’s an important part of opening the world up to them and teaching them about nature.
Build your own knowledge and share it
Remember that the success of this whole bug-learning adventure depends on your own knowledge about insects. That means that you need to arm yourself with plenty of knowledge, and feel confident in sharing this information with the young minds you are educating.
There is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown, and that’s what you want to alleviate in your children. While they may have good reason to stay away from some critters, that doesn’t mean that they should fear every bug.
So you need to find out which bugs sting, bite, or are toxic when touched. This way you can keep yourself children safe by exposing them only to insects that are genuinely harmless. Then you can confidently explain what you know to your children in a calm, reassuring them they have nothing to fear from these strange-looking creatures.
Work with some entry insects first
When you take your children for a walk in nature, there are some common insects you can use for starting the observation process.
An excellent way to discover such insects is to lift fallen pieces of wood or logs, as you’re pretty much guaranteed to find insect wildlife like beetles underneath.
These insects are usually easy to catch so, to help your child observe them closely; it is a good idea to put them into a plastic bag along with some moist pieces of wood. This wood will serve as a meal to your beetles to help keep them alive.
Keep calm whatever happens
Children learn from what surrounds them and, at least they reach their pre-teen years, they are most likely to learn from you, and from the examples of behavior you demonstrate.
That is why, when you deal with bugs and other critters, you must be very aware of your reactions. For example, if you lift a wet log and then scream (or worse, drop it and run away) don’t be surprised if your children do the same!
So it’s wise, before you take your children out on a bug hunting trip, to Mae sure you you’re okay with them yourself, and are comfortable looking at, catching and even holding them.
If you are calm and curious, your children will follow your cue and learn not to fear harmless bugs, but instead be fascinated by them, and respect them as important creatures in the eco-system.
Don’t encourage your children to run away
When surprised by a bug or other creepy crawler, your child’s first reaction may well be to flee. And as a parent, your instinct might tell you to get the child away from harm. But if the bug is harmless, there’s no need to [anic unduly.
So, as before, show your child it’s okay not to be scared, and safe to stay and observe the insect(s) by staying put and calm yourself. And instead of focusing on how ugly it might look, instead explain how fascinating it is, and teach them about its anatomy and lifestyle.
Teach your children about the positive aspects of bugs
While some bugs are pests, others are beneficial for plants. They are all part of an eco-system, and that’s what it’s important that your child understands. The natural behavior of bugs may appear to children scary, and that’s where you can intervene with explanations.
For example, you can explain how the bugs feed by collecting nectar from flowers. Or you can also explain how they feed on other, smaller insects. If you explain calmly and convey your own fascination, you will be able to teach your kids to approach bugs and other critters without fear. You can also use this comparison to explain different things too.
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny