On our walks out over the past week we have seen many minibeasts resurface due to the warming weather. We have seen squashed ones, scratched ones, living ones, big ones and small ones. My boy has had great ideas about why they look the way they do (especially squashed ones), where they are going and what they are doing – pretty hilarious stuff. And my girl looks on adoringly at the creeping crawling bugs calling it “a cutie”, which is equally hilarious.
Anyway the plan this morning, armed with our magnifying glasses (we have loads in various shapes and sizes) was to have a dig in our mud pit in our back garden, have a scavenger hunt and take it from there. Would you believe it, the sun did not have his hat on and we barely found a bug – most probably they were doing what all other sane living things were at that moment in time…having a cuppa and dunking a hob nob.
Today was about exploration, observation and making predictions. It was incredibly simple and again, lead by the children. All we needed today was to be properly dressed, have a magnifying glass and the all important, but by no means necessary (unless you are one of my offspring), a bucket and spade.
And so wellies on, and armed with bucket and spades, we went off to have a dig in the muddy patch at the back of the garden. I must add here that this patch is not an an intentional nature reserve, but an area the other half is ‘working on’. This ‘work’ has been going on for a year. It’s still a patch of mud. I hope he is reading this.
The kids actually LOVE this patch in the garden. They especially love digging in it so I just let them explore and dig. Once they got warmed up I showed them a scavenger hunt (image saved on my iPad as I do not have any ink left in the printer and you must be mad if you think I am going to stay up late designing a worksheet because, I am on a career break).
It was a simple “worksheet” with pictures of various bugs commonly found in the garden with a tick box. There are a million online you can print off and use. Simply search for minibeast scavenger hunt, or similar, however I have provided a link at the bottom to the one I used. We talked a lot about where we were most likely to find particular bugs so that we would not be randomly searching – which would lead to boredom. My big bug made some fairly educated guesses based a lot on the conversations we had been having on our walks to school when we spotted worms, snails and slugs. We also talked about safety, touching bugs and taking care while we explored.
I also showed them a child friendly chart (also on my iPad) of some common minibeasts so that they had an idea of what would be out there and pick out and name the ones they already knew. This was a handy chart as we compared a few bugs we found against it. I will put a link at the bottom of the resources I used, but again, there are a lot out there.
We had some interesting finds but not nearly as good as the ones we had yesterday when it was a lot warmer. Despite this we had a good go at making predictions as to what or who made the holes in the ground, what the minibeast was up to and why they liked it either in the soil or on top. The big bug also dug up a bulb and we discussed roots. Little bug immediately likened the bulb to a radish and declared that Peter Rabbit would like it! Actually little bug, who is 2, was really engrossed. When ask what she was looking for she had said a caterpillar, a spider before deciding that she was going to look for a peacock. She really does make me laugh.
I let them get back to digging (because they never tire of it) before introducing the idea of making a “bug hotel”. I had an empty water bottle which I cut in half and kept at open both ends, so essentially, you have a plastic cylinder. I have not photographed this as I totally forgot but it is as simple as it sounds. In it we stuffed twigs (bamboo twigs are best – twigs with a hole in, but don’t worry too much about it), leaves, stones, bark and an acorn we had found. We filled the hotel to the brim. If you want specific insects then you would need to fill it with specifc items. Again, I’ll put a link to a resource you may find useful. You could also create butterfly feeders but I am going to save that for another, warmer day and time of year.
We then decided on a spot to put the hotel. Seeing as we have not long returned from our holiday in Goa we thought it would be nice to recreate that tropical palm tree feel. So we dumped the hotel right amongst the weedy flowers. I am pretty sure we’re going to get 5* trip advisor ratings. There’s even trampoline nearby and a pool (the minibeasts do not need to know it’s collected rainwater on the trampoline cover!)
Another interesting thing we found that we linked to our recent holiday, was a collection of shells. Big bug thought it quite funny that on the beach we found a range of sea shells belonging to crabs etc and here in our own garden we had a range of shells belonging to snails. When I asked where the snail had gone, he said quite matter of factly: “to find bigger shells to live in of course!” It was great to see him base his answer on previously gathered knowledge from our holiday and discussion on hermit crabs. Of course this isn’t the case and we discussed how a snail is attached to its shell and grows from it, so if it’s empty it means the snail died for whatever reason.
Then it was lunchtime and Annika had decided she wanted to wash her hands. All in all it was a good morning of hunting, making predictions and building on what they already knew as well as learning some new things. I am sure we will continue to have even more talks as we start seeing more minibeasts around here and of course, exploration of the hotel.
I better brush up on my biodiversity!
Some of the resources used today (and again, there are millions of different yet similar available on the internet. I just chose something simple that would work for my kids):
- Minibeast poster (Sparklebox resource)
- Scavenger hunt (Sparklebox resource)
- Minibeast hotel guide (BBC resource)
Some key questions asked:
- Can you tell what minibeast it is?
- Why do you think this lives under/overground?
- How many minibeasts did you find in one place?
- Could you spot that minibeast easily or was it difficult to see? Why?
- Why do you think the shell is empty?
- What made that hole in the ground?
- What minibeast do you think you will find there?
- What do you think a slug etc might need in his hotel?
So I hope this inspires you to explore, there was no cost at all but well used time and very few resources (90% of which were natural). Have an adventure in your back garden, park, bit of green by the pavement and enjoy the simplest of science.