Does your family enjoy exploring bugs and other fauna in the backyard?
Yesterday, my family and I were playing in the backyard when one of my 1.5 year old twins spied a creature on a tree. She turned to me, pointed her finger and boldly said, ‘spider!’
I was so proud. That was the moment I decided the twins were ready to join in with their big sister on more complex wildlife activities, like exploring bugs in their natural environment.
The twins are still only toddlers, so we have been encouraging wildlife appreciation through singing nursery rhymes, wildlife songs and encouraging pet love with a gentle hand.
But it was time to introduce them to some other little creepy crawlies. My eldest daughter came along for the ride too, because this activity really has no age limit.
Exploring bugs with a white sheet
What you’ll need:
- a white sheet (white is the best, but any light coloured sheet would work)
- A magnifying glass
There were a lot of spiders during this experiment; this activity should be fully supervised. I watched my girls very closely to ensure they didn’t touch spiders or bugs I knew weren’t very safe.
What to do:
It’s really simple.
- Lay the sheet under a tree and spread it out.
- Shake the tree and the branches. Give it a good vigorous shake!
- Take a closer look at whatever falls onto the sheet.
Here’s what we found
Here’s what we found.
There were more, but quite a few were too small for my camera’s photographic abilities!
We found seven different species of bug, plus three arachnids.
Exploring bugs through observation and discussion
Spend some time observing the bugs. If you know some of the bugs are harmless, let your child touch or hold them.
Helpful prompts to encourage curiosity
Explain predator-prey relationships.
Why are there bugs and why are there spiders? What roles do they play in their tree environment?
Do an experiment.
Try putting the sheet under different types of trees. Score how many animals you get from each tree. Think about why one tree may have more bugs than another. E.g. We put a sheet under a golden cane palm tree and received one bug. We thought it might be because lilly pillies are native to Australia and golden canes are not, therefore Australian bugs haven’t adapted to eating golden cane palms.
After your sheet search, look closer at the tree. Are there any animals that didn’t fall onto the sheet? Why didn’t they fall, but others did?
Study a local wildlife field guide.
If you’d like to learn more about the creatures you find, refer to a reference book. You can buy them at your local bookshop or borrow them from the library.
Do you explore bugs with your kids?
Susan Case says
This is a wonderful post. You might consider sending it to Let Children Play (Megan Rosker). She loves to re-post children playing outside type posts. Love it that you are exposing your children to our great outdoors.
Thanks for your lovely comment Susan. I will see if Megan is interested in re-posting it. My girls love the outdoors, especially if bugs are involved!
Isn’t it amazing what we don’t notice sometimes? Living things are all around us.
I love that this activity took me two minutes! Usually my wildlife activities can take quite a bit to plan. Thank goodness for pesticide free trees!
This is such a good idea Penny!! I can’t believe I haven’t done it before!
Thanks Kelly. I’m glad you liked it. It’s so simple, that’s what I love about it. Grab a sheet and shake a tree!
I want to come play at your house! 🙂 Great idea! We spend a lot of time in the park across the street from our home and have seen all kinds of creatures great and small!!Our favorite finds are mostly birds, but we have seen our fair share of spider and other creepy crawlies. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this idea!
You’re welcome Stephanie! You can come over anytime. Our backyard is quite small but luckily that doesn’t matter to bugs. They are everywhere!
Hinterland Mama says
What a different idea!
We’ll be trying this… although I’m a little worried because everything seems to grow just a little bit bigger up here…
I’ll be sharing this one on my fbk page 🙂
You may have a python falling from the tree. That wouldn’t be great would it. lol You might want to check the tree before you shake it just in case!
Off the Couch Kids says
Great idea! So much to be discovered in the backyard and it sounds like the kids loved it.
Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky says
Oh, you’re a much more adventurous mama than I! Bugs are one thing that I shy away from. This looks like fantastic fun and so much learning – if you are brave enough to go near the little critters!
I think I would be worried about what would fall from our trees. We have a lot of big spiders in our yard.