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Beetle Play

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.

The Guide

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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