Insects make a great topic of study for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and early elementary students. Unlike many animals one might choose to study (e.g., polar animals), it is comparatively quite easy to observe the habitats, behaviors, and life cycle of insects up close. These observations may take place either in nature or by creating an insect habitats indoors; both means of observation provide wonderful, hands-on learning experiences for kids!
Over time, my kids and I have studied a variety of different insects. The insect activities we have done have always been a big hit. If you are planning to do a unit study on insects with your kids or students, below I have a number of wonderful resources for insect activities and insect printables that will help make your insect unit a success!
Insects are a class of animals characterized by having three pairs of legs, a body segmented into three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), compound eyes, and one pair of antennae. Most, but not all, insects have wings. Insects represent the largest group of animals on Earth, and are found in nearly all environments on our planet. Insects typically go through a life cycle that includes hatching from an egg, a larva stage, a pupa stage, and finally an adult stage. Below are some insect activities that have been featured at Gift of Curiosity, as well as a number of insect printables geared toward kids.
Ants are one of the most numerous kinds of animals on the planet, and have inhabited Earth for more than 100 million years. Unlike most insects that prefer solitude, ants are social creatures that live in colonies with large numbers of other ants. Ant colonies work together to build a nest, gather food, and defend themselves from predators.
Ladybugs, also known as lady bird beetles, are small insects typically less than 1/4 inch (4-8 mm) in size. Their wing covers are typically red, orange, or yellow in color with black spots. Different types of ladybugs have different numbers of spots. Ladybugs are considered useful because they eat aphids and other garden pests. There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs.
Bees are small flying insects that are found on every continent except Antarctica. They feed on nectar and pollen. One species of bee, the honeybee, produces honey that humans like to eat. Bees play a key role in the pollination of flowering plants, and may be responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat. Unfortunately, bees are currently dying off at an alarming rate, with implications for our food supply.
Butterflies are insects with large, fluttering wings that vary in color and pattern from species to species. Adult butterflies eat nectar from flowers or juice from rotting fruit using a long, straw-like proboscis. Butterflies are found on every continent of the planet except for Antarctica.
The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the silkmoth. Silkworms are domesticated animals that only exist in captivity. They have lost the ability to fly and thus can no longer survive in nature. They are raised primarily to produce silk, which is harvested from their cocoons. Silkworms eat only one type of food – leaves from the mulberry tree.