Since the first bug hunt did not go so well I knew I had to try it again. Shortly after we got back in town I asked Chris, my husband, to put some boards out in a muddy patch behind our backyard. We didn't have the flat, thin, plywood type board that I was hoping for laying around so some 2x4 pieces would have to do. He set them out in the mud. Like this -
Bugs like cool, damp places so I knew they would collect underneath the boards making bug hunting on hot days much more successful.
I also realized that two year olds quickly get overwhelmed if too many things are introduced at once. So for today's bug hunt I decided to try and stick with just ONE bug. While we were at the library this morning I found a book that I thought was just perfect for what I wanted to do this afternoon. I checked out "I'm a Pill Bug" by Yukihisa Tokuda. It is a very cute, scientifically accurate but very simple book about pill bugs or rollie pollies as we called them growing up.
We headed out this morning, tools in hand, to find some pill bugs.
She caught them. Let them crawl on her fingers, hands and arms. Watched them run up and down on our white board. Lifted up the white board to watch them "hold on tight" and walk upside down. And she put them back in their home. However, never once did they roll up into a ball for her (I didn't tell her that they would so that there was no disappointment if they didn't; I am starting to learn this whole mom thing!).
By focusing just on the pill bugs and ignoring all the ants, worms, millipedes, centipedes, beetles and slugs that were also under our boards I think she was able to really take in what she was looking at. Her attention stayed much more focused and lasted longer than it had on our previous bug hunt.
Once the mosquitoes were attacking so bad I couldn't stand it anymore (bug repellent is on order! thanks for all the suggestions!) we headed inside to read the book that I had gotten. It was fun to see her making the connection between what we had just seen outside and what we were reading about in the book.
The Nitty Gritty!
Bug boards, as I have decided to call them, are a great way to make finding bugs MUCH easier! If you have older kids this may not be necessary because half the fun and excitement is in the finding of the bug. But with younger kids this a great way to ensure that something will be found. I would recommend something thinner and wider than what we currently have. I may have to actually go and purchase a small piece of plywood to better fit my needs. I actually got this idea from biology graduate students that I knew who were doing insect/reptile/amphibian sampling and used this method for collecting. It really does work great!
Pairing a book with the activity or plant/animal/insect that you are focusing on is a great way to extend the experience. I would say to stick with non-fiction so that it is learning based (I am discovering that children's books take a lot of liberties with the lives of insects and animals!) if that is your goal.