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Minibeasts – The Scuttle of Minifeet

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Dear Lionel, I work in Early Years and the children love creepy crawlies. Can you give me some ideas to help them explore the world of minibeasts?

It’s brilliant how excited children get about minibeasts. Whether its fear or fascination, these little scurrying creatures seems to capture their imagination – and most kids love searching for them in the garden, even if they don’t all want to touch them. The great thing about minibeasts is that you don’t need to travel far to find ladybirds, beetles, spiders, worms, snails and more. They’re all waiting just outside our doors.

Encouraging this interest in the animal kingdom is a great way to inspire a love of nature and get children out in the fresh air.

Five ways to inspire Early Years children with a minibeast topic:

1. Go on a bug hunt

  • Get outside and start searching! This is a great outdoor classroom activity. Here’s how to get going:
  • Pick the right time of year – you’ll find much more in spring or summer
  • Download an identification sheet from The Woodland Trust
  • Look carefully under stones and bits of wood, underneath plant pots can be a good place too. Remember to put them back in position afterwards
  • Dig in the soil – can you spot any earthworms, millipedes or centipedes?
  • Get a white sheet, lay it on the ground under a tree or hedge then give the tree a gentle shake or two. Have you disturbed any beetles or bugs? You might find some quite teeny tiny creatures on your sheet.

2.Study what you’ve found

  • Give kids the right tools to see the insects better. This will also help children who want to see the bugs but not actually touch them.
  • Get hold of some magnifying glasses and bug viewing pots. Insectlore have a good range for nursery and reception age children https://www.insectlore.co.uk/bug-related-items/bug-viewers.html
  • Let kids get hands-on – just supervise to make sure the children are learning to treat these creatures with respect as it’s easy to get overexcited and heavy handed.
  • Top tip! Put the minibeasts back where you found them afterwards. It’s always best to try and let the creepy crawlies go back about their business in the same area you found them.

3. Make a bug hotel

  • Provide a good habitat to encourage minibeasts into your school garden. There are lots of ways you can do this:
  • Have a ‘wild’ area in the garden with longer grass and piles of logs/twigs/branches. Kids can help by gathering the sticks and planting wild seeds
  • Get children to make their own simple bug hotel with a cut off plastic bottle. The kids will need to fill it with twigs, sticks, pinecones etc. Bits of bamboo are excellent to stuff inside, especially if you gouge out a bit of the softer flesh to make the holes in the middle more prominent. This is exactly the kind of place ladybirds and other beetles and bugs are looking to hibernate in. If you get a wooden box or willow basket, you can stuff all your plastic bottle hotels in on their sides for easy bug access
  • For the more ambitious, a great bug hotel can be made with layers of old wooden pallets. You’ll probably need about six. Stack them on top of each other, and fill in the gaps with as much variety as you can find: old plant pots, bamboo, pine cones, logs, twigs etc.
  • Happy DIY Home have an amazing article on Bug Hotels, and some fantastic pictures that will give you some great ideas for your own design.
  • The RSPB website also has a design https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/build-a-bug-hotel/

4. Get crafty

  • Minibeast arts and crafts are brilliant fun and there’s so much you can do! Here are a few ideas:
  • Use coloured sticky tape to make huge spider webs and fill them with homemade spiders. Toilet roll centres or pom poms can make great spider bodies with pipe cleaners for legs – and don’t forget the goggly eyes!
  • Create a beetle and ladybird landscape. Paint egg cartons for the bodies and add eyes. Cover the background with leaves and twigs to make it look more realistic
  • Get painting! Cut out paper butterfly shapes and let the children paint spots of colour on one ‘wing’. Then press the butterfly in half to get a mirror image on the other side
  • Get inspired – check out The Consortium Early Years minibeast craft ideas http://www.earlyyears.co.uk/inspiration/5-minibeast-craft-ideas/
  • Top tip! Encourage the children to think about the creepy crawlies body. For example, make sure your ladybird has six legs, give your spider eight eyes like a real spider, add lots of legs in segments of four (two each side per segment) for a millipede.

5. End the day with a minibeast book Round off your busy bug day with a book about the creatures you’ve found. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Norman The Slug With The Silly Shell by Sue Hendra – Norman’s silly antics will get them giggling!
  • Mad About Minibeasts by David Wojtowycz and Giles Andreae – encourage them to join in with sounds and actions
  • Aaarrgghhh Spider by Lydia Monks – they might get a little bit loud with this one!
  • Yucky Worms by Vivian French & Jessica Ahlberg – hopefully this will get them all loving worms
  • And of course Julia Donaldson gets it right every time: there’s The Snail & The Whale, What The Ladybird Heard, Spinderella and the amazing Superworm with all his bug and beetle friends.
  • Want the children to meet more minibeasts? Lion Learners offers awesome minibeast sessions for nurseries and schools. The children are able to handle a range of exotic bugs from all over the world, including giant millipedes, giant land snails, giant stick insects, hissing cockroaches, tarantula and more!

Find your nearest Lion Learners presenter

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