Get free weekly activities sent to your inbox. Sign up now.
Insects, spiders, worms and other tiny critters are marvelous things, and they can help us inspire wonder, joy and curiosity. Their tiny scale and huge numbers, the ways they move, the shapes and textures of their bodies, their colors, and more make them fascinating to people of all ages. And once you learn how to look for tiny friends, you’ll start to find them everywhere. Critters can be found in all parts of the world, under ground, in the sky, inside our homes and outside. Here’s our guide to searching for critters to empower your child to be a curious explorer of tiny friends:
Gather a few tools: All you need for a critter hunt is a sense of curiosity, focus and a sprinkle of determination and patience. To support critter hunting, you can also offer kids a stick, a small container with water, clear container for catching and looking at critters up close and a magnifying glass.
Search for critters:
- Look under STONES: A large variety of insects can be found under rocks including beetles, ants, termites, and crickets.
- Look under LOOSE BARK and ROTTEN WOOD: Gently peel back loose bark on logs and trees to find a variety of beetles, ants and sometimes moths and bees. Kids can use a stick to chip away at rotten wood to see what they can find.
- Tear up and examine SHELF FUNGI AND MUSHROOMS: Shelf fungus can often be found on fallen trees. Break open mushrooms to uncover the critters feeding on the fungus (you can offer a stick or tweezers for this and remind kids to wash hands well after touching mushrooms).
- Search the WINDOW OR SCREEN: The windows and sills of our homes are often places where many types of flies, moths and beetles can be found.
- Examine FLOWERS: Many critters are attracted to flowers, including bees, butterflies and dragonflies.
- Dig UNDER THE GROUND: Grubs and worms can often be uncovered with just a bit of digging. If the ground is dry, kids can use a stick to dig up a bit of the surface dirt, sprinkle a bit of water and repeat, mixing the water into the dirt. Wait about 10 minutes and you should start to see worms poking up to the surface.
- Search in WET, DAMP AND DARK SPACES: Moisture attracts many types of insects, which, in turn, attract spiders looking for prey to catch in their webs. Small, darker spaces also provide good hiding spots for spiders.
Observe tiny critters: Invite kids to get down on their bellies or up close to the tiny critters they discover for a better look. You can also support kids with carefully scooping a tiny friend up into a clear container to observe (just be sure to return them to their homes when finished). If you have a magnifying glass handy, offer this super tool for your child to explore. Notice together how the tiny critter moves and invite your child to try moving in the same way. What body parts does the critter have? What colors and shapes does your child see? What kind of food or habitat might this critter need? Big kids can document their discoveries by drawing each critter they find on their hunt.
Learn about your critters: Use a tool like this one to identify the critters you discover. You can search by critter type, location, color and other characteristics. Or, kids can invent their own names for the tiny friends they discover. Ask kids to describe the critter and then decide on a name that suits its qualities. Spend some time observing the movements and actions of the tiny friend. What are its superpowers?
Play like critters: A critter hunt is a great jumping off point for imaginative play. Try some of these critter-themed DIY activities:
Why is this activity great for kids?
It is rare that young kids stay in one spot for long. But, the successful search for tiny critters helps kids develop their ability to focus and exercise self control as well as hone their observation skills. Kids must be persistent and patient as they dig and wait for small friends to appear. As kids search for and learn about tiny critters, they also nurture their curiosity and connection to the natural world and develop empathy for the small creatures they share their space with.