For me, there’s nothing more enjoyable than joining your child outside as they dive deep into nature, overturning every rock they find and picking up leaf after leaf. It’s somewhat fulfilling watching their imagination unravel as they make discoveries and explore what the world has to offer, right on our doorsteps. Better still, nothing quite beats a child’s inquisitiveness and excitement when it comes to bugs. Whether it’s an army of ants, a slimy slug, or a hairy (and sometimes hungry) caterpillar, their mind seems to explode each time they spot another critter. It would be a shame to quash such enthusiasm, so why not embrace it? Furthermore, why not encourage the children you know to release that inner bug hunter? Sounds fun, right? Here are three easy and low-cost ways for you and the children in your life to become top bug hunters this summer.
This is a really easy-to-make but extremely fun game for all of the family to play and it can be taken anywhere, from the garden, to the woods, or even the park. All you need is some paper and something to draw with. First off, draw a nine-square table (three rows of three boxes), before drawing a bug of some kind in each box. You can do the drawing bit with or without your child, it’s up to you (I find that some people like to include children in deciding what bugs to find, while others like there to be that element of surprise). Once each square has a bug in, it’s time to go and explore! Challenge your child to try and find all of the bugs in the table. The more they discover, the more they cross off their table and, as with traditional Bingo, the aim is to cross off all the squares. See, I told you it was simple, didn’t I?
If your child is a little bit younger, perhaps at a pre-school age, you can play along with them. This can be fun for both of you and a great opportunity to have some digi-free bonding time, as you explore outside together, trying to find the critters on the sheet.
For older minds, why not give them a word that they must shout when they cross off a line of bugs and/or the whole table? This can be a great game to include at parties too, especially if you want to challenge multiple children to play.
This really is a brilliant activity for all ages and can make for a great distraction or way to fill the time when you’re outside – especially for parents of toddlers who want to encourage walking and early exploring. Equally, it’s a great excuse to get older children out, with the challenge and competition element making it a bit more appealing – maybe take it up a notch by awarding a low-cost prize or treat for those who manage to tick off every bug in their table first.
Build Your Own Minibeast Hotel
Now this is an all-time favourite of mine. I loved creating a mini beast hotel (or a bug hotel) as a youngster myself and I couldn’t wait to pass my hotel building skills onto my daughter. The beauty of building a mini beast hotel is that you can use anything you already have in your home, garden, or local outdoor area. The critters in your garden won’t be fussy, as long as they have some cosy places to hide and perhaps some old bark to munch on, they’ll be glad to stay in your homemade hotel.
Find a suitable location for your hotel – somewhere level and on solid ground – and then get building! Use old bricks, stones and wood to make a solid structure, then fill it with anything animal-friendly you discover lying around. Dry leaves, old flowerpots, pinecones, soil, moss and pieces of wood all make great fillers but let your child’s imagination run free! There really are no limits when it comes to building your mini beast hotel.
Remember to always pop a roof on your mini beast hotel, after all you don’t want soggy residents! And of course, once complete, make sure you ensure the critters are well-fed by surrounding it with juicy leaves and colourful flowers. Let your child come up with a name for the hotel, it’s so fun to keep checking in and seeing what bugs have come to stay.
A Ladybird Trail
Here’s an activity that you can do as a family, or you can ask friends and neighbours to get involved too.
Prepare your ladybird trail by painting paper plates red and drawing a line down the middle before adding black spots on both sides. You can create as many paper ladybirds as you like, depending on the age of the children involved and how long you want the trail to last.
Now get hiding! Once dry, place the ladybirds around your garden or local area, making sure they are all visible enough for youngsters to spot.
Once they are all hidden, it’s time for the children to get their ladybird hunting hats on. See how many ladybirds they can spot – and if you are doing it with other children and out in the community, then why not ask them to take photos of the ladybirds they find? Of course, it goes without saying that children need to be accompanied by an adult if they are out ladybird hunting in the local area.
Again, you might want to offer a small prize of treat for those who discover all of the ladybirds first.
So, there you have it – three fun, family-friendly and fabulously low-cost ideas to help get youngsters out exploring this summer. You never know what’s waiting to be discovered on your doorstep.