Toddlers love bugs. I have often thought about what it is about bugs that interests children so much and I think it’s that they are so accessible. No matter where you live you live near some bugs. These bug activities were all done with at least one of my children when they were a toddler. For me that is from about 18 months until 3 , but these activities would be fun for older kids too. It’s easy to find books about bugs for toddlers as well and you can find some of my favorite in this book list about bugs.
We love playing with playdough. I think it would be a toss up between playdough and Duplo for which gets played with more at our house. This activity is not complicated but it was fun and kept my daughter super happy while we all battled stomach flu a few weeks ago. As a parent when you find something that is keeping a miserable child happy you roll with it. The trick seems to be really fantastic plastic bugs that leave very detailed imprints in the playdough. Ours were given to us years ago by a neighbor but here is an affiliate link to Amazon for the bugs if you want to check them out for yourself.
Gather your materials. You will need some playdough, a cutting board ( we reserve one just for playdough) and plastic bugs.
Add to the fun with books about bugs. Click through the image below for a great list.
Usually when we do a sensory tub I don’t have a clear goal for it but with this mini one I did. This was a simple sorting activity that while focused on color sorting also naturally led to counting and comparing amounts. You don’t need to put this into a sensory tub but by adding the split peas I added sensory and surprise elements that my daughter loved. When it was all done everything fit into a ziploc and can be taken back out for less structured play from now on.
Gather your materials. You will need some black and orange paper, black and orange creepy crawlies ( we used various spiders, ants, frogs, snakes etc… ) some split peas, and a container. I just grabbed the cheapest split peas at the store and didn’t notice until days later that there was a flavor packing with it. Just discard that if you have one unless you can think of a crafty way of using ham flavoring. If you do I am curious to hear it!
Invite your kiddo to come investigate. I didn’t have to tell her what to do , it was all right there and she naturally placed them on the matching color. As she did I did ask ” What are you discovering?” which started a discussion about that there were way more orange creepy crawlies than black.
Much time was also spent on just exploring the split peas. How they sounded when dropped back into the container from various heights and how some stuck to her hand if she squeezed them in her fist for a moment or two.
Simple activities like these are my go to for short structured lessons. They still leave many doors open to let my daughter explore but include tid bits of more pointed learning. The vast majority of what we do is open child directed play and we fit in little activities like this 2-3 times a week. Kids don’t need giant blocks of structured learning at this age but if they like it and you want to work it in try playful ideas like this.
Books About Creepy CrawliesAll of our book titles are linked to Amazon with affiliate links.
The Very Busy Spider was a favorite of my son’s from the get go. We have the board book edition and what I love about it, is that the spider web in it is raised and offers a sensory element to reading the story. This is a story of hard work, persistence and also helps reinforce animal sounds. Perfect for toddlers !
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg is a very interesting story of two ants who decide not to return to the colony and hang out in a sugar bowl eating instead. Of course nothing is as it seems and they have quite an adventure trying to avoid all the dangers of a kitchen, realizing in the end that being a part of a colony isn’t so bad! This is a cute book for preschoolers who will love trying to guess what each new adventure the ants face really are- they include a toaster, hot coffee and an electrical outlet.
I Love Bugs!by Phileomon Sturges is a rare find. It is listed as fiction but I would consider it as non fiction, as it really is a great factual book about bugs for older toddlers/ young preschoolers. It is really hard to find simple, short books that include facts and this one is perfect. It doesn’t go into the life cycles of butterflies or how lightning bugs light up, but it does use descriptive words with bright and charming illustrations. Great for the under 3 crowd, and useful for older kids too!
The flowers are starting to bloom on our apple trees and bugs are everywhere so it’s the perfect time to make a few not so slimy versions of the bugs we see outside. I had planned for her to just make one snail but when I gave her the pile of construction paper she asked to make a whole family so we did.
- Gather your materials. You will need some construction paper, coffee filters , markers, glue, double stick tape , googly eyes, some water and an eye dropper. If you want glitter (she REALLY wanted glitter ) grab some glitter glue. We love these little tubes of glitter craftprojectideas.com sent us.
- Start by coloring your coffee filters. While she colored we chatted about colors and the different marks she was making . Dots were her favorite.
- Add the water! She started with the eye dropper but quickly asked if she could pour. If you are going to let your child pour you will want to have two small cups on hand so you can give them small amounts of water to pour and then refill.
- Let the filters dry and go play outside or in my daughter’s case raid your brother’s closet and get dressed in his clothes. If you need to speed up drying time use a hair dryer on low.
- Cut out the snail frames. Use a coffee filter as a guide for the center circle. Make sure it’s smaller than the coffee filter so you can tape it in.
- Using double stick tape tape the coffee filters on the back.
- Time to add eyes. I love the 3 eyed snail . I was shocked when she insisted on doing all the eyes. I was prepared to do most of them.
- Add glitter if you wish. One thing I can say about my little girl is she is determined and she was determined not to let me help after I showed her how to add the glitter. She eventually got it out ( this color was almost all used up… when they are full they are super easy to squeeze).
- While she did that I cut out easy antennas from the scrap paper and taped them on.
- A family of glittery snails !
- Add it to a window and see all the colors shine!
Books About Bugs !
Check out our 19 favorite books about bugs. These aren’t just some good bug books, they are some of our all time favorites!
Finding activities that both my two year old and her six year old brother enjoy isn’t always easy. More and more he wants to do something she doesn’t have the patience or skill for yet. One thing they both love are hunts. Simple materials, fun game and a ton of learning. This bug hunt has color matching , counting and sorting as well as a ton of fun. This activity was a great way for both of them to play and learn together. As you will see they worked at their own level while working together. Although we used bugs you could use any small items like plastic Easter eggs, simple blocks or even cut out shapes.
- Gather your materials. You will need many multi colored small objects to hide, construction paper in the same colors ( we chose a rainbow theme but you could do any colors) and some kids eager to find things.
- Spread your colors out on a flat surface like the floor or table.
- Hide your bugs. Can you see any in this picture ?
- Explain the rules of the game. Find the bug and sort it in the correct color. For my son I added the following challenges : After he found a bug and put it in the right color I asked him to see which color had the most bugs and which had the least. This made him pause so his sister had a slight chance at finding some of the bugs and gave him a little math lesson too.
- Start finding those bugs! They were so quick it was hard for me to catch any pictures.
- My daughter loved sorting them and every now and then I would sneak one into the wrong color and she’d fix it.
- When we found them all I asked them to count. My daughter counted all the bugs in each color and my son counted all the bugs in every color. He also told me which color had the most, which had the least .
- After that he went off to play Lego but my daughter and I played two more times.
Books About Bugs
We try to always match up activities with books to reinforce active play with quality reading time. Here are 19 great bug books for you and your little bug hunters to check out.