Exploring Insects with Your Children

There is so much to see and explore right under our noses. Insects and bugs are fascinating creatures for you and your children to investigate. Take a walk around your yard or in a field or park, stop and sit on the grass and observe how many different bugs are around you. It's amazing how many wonderful creatures there are for us to notice in just a small area.

Here are a couple of bug-catching ideas for you and your children to help make your insect observations more fun and successful. These projects use inexpensive materials, and most of them you will find right in your own home. Here is how you can get started.

Make a net
You can make your own net to catch and observe insects. To get started you will need a wire coat hanger, an old broomstick or a wooden dowel, some nylon netting or fine cheese cloth and a wide strip of cotton material and some strong heavy tape (duct tape is great).

First, straighten out the coat hanger hook and then bend it into a circular shape hoop, but leave a small piece of the hook out so that this section can be attached to the broom stick for the net handle. Tape the hook of the hanger to the wooden stick with the duct tape, and now your framing is completed; you should have the circular shape of the net and the handle all in place.

Next, measure the circumference of the net circle. Lay out the sheet of netting or the cheese cloth-it needs to be as long as the circumference of the hanger. That will give you the length that you need. The width can be about 18 inches. This can vary depending on if you want your net smaller or larger on the inside. Fold the net in half, and then make a paper pattern that will look like the letter J. Lay out your pattern, tape or pin it in place, and then cut out the netting.

You will need to sew the netting together to form the pouch shape. Using the 3 inch strip of cotton material that is the length of the circumference of the wire net, fold that over the top of the netting and stitch it down to the netting. Then lay the cotton band over the wire and either duct tape it down or sew it down over the net so it seals the net around the wire-hanger frame. Look over your net and make sure that there are not any sharp pieces of the metal hanger in your child's way. You can always add more duct tape to pad and secure the metal ends; it's better to be extra cautious and safe.

Your bug catching net is completed and you and your children will have a wonderful time hunting and examining all the wonderful insects that show their faces at this time of year.

Make an insect cage
Instead of using a large jar with holes punched in the top for a bug cage, here's another idea that you may want to try, and you probably have all these materials right around your own home.

You need 2 round cake pans that are the exact same size (yard sales are a great place to look if you don't have any), a piece of screen and some modeling clay, the type that doesn't harden up.

To cut the screen you want to first measure the circumference of the cake pan and then add 2 more inches. The height of the insect cage can be about 1 foot if your screen is stiff enough; if not see how high you can keep the screening when the cake pan is on the top of it, so that it won't collapse under the pan's weight. Using heavy tape secure the seams of the screen together, both inside and outside. This also should cover up any sharp edges that the screening may leave.

Inside each pan use the clay to make a seam where the screen will meet the pan. This will not only help the pan stay in place but it will also help seal the area so that the insects will not be able to escape. Be generous with the clay; it really will help your cage be more secure when you're moving it around.

If your going to keep the insects for any length of time, you will need to add some plants, sticks, dirt and leaves from the area from which you found them. You want to create a similar environment for their stay. So that the insects will have water yet not drown, moisten a cotton ball and place it in the bottom of the cage for their use.

These two buggy projects are easy to work on as family projects, and your children will be able to help you all along the way. They will be enjoying science and nature right in their own back yards.

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