Few insects capture the imagination like the Golden Tortoise Beetle, whose shape resembles that of a tiny turtle and shimmers in gold. In this activity, kids take inspiration from this week’s featured creature and turn ordinary rocks into colorful beetles to spark imaginative play.
Talk about beetles: Enjoy looking at these photos of this week’s featured creature, Golden Tortoise Beetle. Also called Goldbugs, these beetles are known for their brilliant gold color, but can also change their color to orange (scientists believe this is to scare off predators). Notice the beetle’s hard shell, wings and six legs. What else does your child notice about the Golden Tortoise Beetle?
Learn more about beetles near you: Use an online app like Bug Finder to browse or search the beetles in your area. You can also use color and location to identify a beetle you discover while you’re exploring outside. Or, just search beetles to see the amazing array of sizes, shapes and types of beetle that thrive on our planet! Want a little more? Watch this quick video from National Geographic Kids’ Amazing Animals series.
Beetle Hunt: If you live in an area where golden tortoise beetles can be found (lucky you!) search on plants they frequent most, such as morning glory, potatoes, beans, and peppers. If these golden bugs are not easily found in your area, it is very likely that there are many other types of beetles to discover in your outdoor space. After all, nearly ¼ of all living creatures on earth are beetles!
Head outside in search of beetles. Look on the ground, lift up pieces of wood and fallen leaves. If you have a magnifying glass handy, offer it to kids to get a closer look. Talk together about the different beetles you discover- in what ways are they similar to each other? In what ways are they different?
Turn rocks into beetle friends: Offer some rocks, paint and a permanent marker to kids and wonder how they might turn rocks into beetle friends. Kids may want to create their own Golden Tortoise beetle by painting rocks with gold or yellow paint or by wrapping them in shiny tin foil. Or, kids can create a beetle they discovered during their hunt- or even invent a new type of beetle!
Beetle hide-and-seek: Once kids’ beetles are dry, bring them outside for a beetle scavenger hunt. Take turns hiding them around your outdoor space for other family members or friends to find. Introduce the concept of camouflage by noticing which beetles and hiding spots are easiest and hardest to find.
Beetle Play: To spark imaginative play with their beetles, offer kids a container and wonder what objects from nature they could add to it to make a special home or playground for beetles to play.
Why is this activity great for kids?
When kids slow down and search for beetles in their outdoor space, they develop their curiosity, observation skills and their focus. Exploring the way different colored beetles blend in or stand out in nature is also a super introduction to the concept of camouflage. And, when kids incorporate their beetle rocks into pretend play, they engage their imaginations and divergent thinking, an essential component of creativity.
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By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What is Imagination?
Imagination is defined in many ways, but one we like is, "the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality." This is no small task to little kids, and yet young childhood is a time in which imagination is developed more than any other. How does imagination develop in childhood? Through an increasingly sophisticated life of make believe.
We all likely have a sense of what we mean by make believe or good old "pretend play." How do experts define it, though? To some, there are different types of make believe that vary in sophistication and make pretend play different than other types of play. For example, kids may use objects to represent something else (e.g. a block becomes a cell phone). Or, they may start to give an object certain properties (e.g. a doll is asleep or a tree is on fire!). Still yet, they may themselves take on the properties of someone or something else.
From there, pretend play evolves into acting out scenarios or stories, those getting increasingly intricate as imagination develops. As kids' pretend play grows more sophisticated, these stories come to involve not only the creative use of objects, but multiple perspectives (e.g. good and bad guys in the same story), and/or the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions (e.g. I am sad, but then become happy after I save the village from certain doom).
Why does it matter?
An ever growing body of research substantiates the many benefits of pretend play including the enhanced development of: language and communication skills; self-control and empathy; flexible and abstract thinking; and creativity. These are the skills that will help kids balance emotions, form healthy relationships, work effectively on teams, stay focused in school, be successful at various jobs and solve the problems of an increasingly complicated world. An individual's creativity in particular, both requires and is limited by her imagination.
What is a Naturalist?
The oldest and simplest definition, “student of plants and animals,” dates back to 1600. The term has evolved over time, it's importance changing as the values of dominant culture have changed. 400 years after that old definition, Howard Gardner, the paradigm-shifting education theorist, added “naturalist” to his list of “multiple intelligences.” Gardner challenged the notion that intelligence is a single entity that results from a single capability. Instead, he recognizes eight types of intelligence, all of which enable individuals to think, solve problems or to create things of value. To Gardner, the Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment.
A true naturalist has not simply Googled and learned the names of plants, animals, rocks, etc. Rather, he or she has had direct experience with them, coming to know about them and using all senses to develop this intelligence. A naturalist also has a reverence for nature, valuing and caring for living things from the smallest mite to the tallest tree. A naturalist comes to not only knowing the creatures and features of his or her environment, but treasuring them in thought and action.
Why does it matter?
In the process of becoming a naturalist, children become stewards of nature, a connection that is associated with a range of benefits, including greater emotional well-being, physical health and sensory development (not to mention the benefits to nature itself!). In a world in which primary experience of nature is being replaced by the limited, directed stimulation of electronic media, kids senses are being dulled and many believe their depth of both their interest in and capacity to understand complicated phenomena are being eroded. To contrast, the naturalist learns about the key features of their natural environment by using all of his senses and be interpreting open-ended and ever-changing stimuli.