We are getting pretty excited around here about preschool! Toddlers love learning. Their brains are like little sponges. Furthermore, those little sponges want nothing more than to soak up as much knowledge as possible. The more you give them, the more they want to absorb. Don’t worry though, I have you covered with this month’s Preschool at Home series!
This month, we are focused on bugs. My daughter developed this fascination with the pill bugs that live in our backyard. She was convinced that if one wandered away from the grass that it was lost. It was her mission to reunite the “baby rollie pollie” with its family.
“What is a rollie pollie?” she asked. Thus began our study of bugs. This is often the way to begin a new unit of study with your toddler. You know that thing that they will not stop asking questions about? That’s the thing you start teaching. Of course, toddlers want to learn everything, but they will actually sit (relatively) still and be engaged in learning about topics they care about.
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How to Do Preschool at Home (Bugs Theme)
While creepy crawlies might creep you out, your toddler will love learning about bugs! They really are interesting to learn about. I love learning about the myself…I just do not want them in my house.
Preschool at Home: Bug-Themed Literacy Activities
Books are always my first stop when starting a new unit with students of any age. They help provide context and build background knowledge. I started with a few of daughter’s favorite books by one of her favorite authors.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This book is in heavy rotation in our household, but it is also a great book to begin your bug unit. Although there is a little make-believe in the story, it still helps to illustrate the life cycle of a butterfly. The story begins with a little egg on a leaf who grows into a caterpillar. Then, the caterpillar eats and eats until he takes a little rest in a cocoon before emerging as a beautiful butterfly.
My preschooler is obsessed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I also used this story with my second graders. One year, my co-teacher and I created foam puppets to retell the story events. We created everything from the egg to every morsel of food that the caterpillar ate. However, for your toddler, you can stick to just the main events.
1. Draw your shapes on the foam pieces. You will need at least a white circle for the egg, a green leaf, a green or yellow caterpillar, and a brown or gray chrysalis. I suggest cutting the shape of your butterfly out of one color and then allowing your toddler to choose different colored circles to decorate it.
2. Next, hot glue your foam pieces to the jumbo craft sticks.
3. Optional: Create a sun and the other food items mentioned in the story like the ice cream cone, watermelon, etc.
4. As you read the story, ask your toddler to hold up the “puppet” that matches that part of the story.
5. After reading, ask your toddler to retell the story using the puppets.
Retelling is a great skill to practice with your preschooler. You may have already noticed that your toddler will “read” a familiar story by looking at the pictures and retelling what they have memorized. This is a wonderful early literacy skill to encourage!
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
The Grouchy Ladybug is another one of our Eric Carle favorites. This book is also told in time-order sequence. Whereas The Very Hungry Caterpillar is told in sequence using days of the week, this book uses hours of the day. Preschoolers do not have a terrific sense of time quite yet, but it is helpful to begin introducing the concept of time.
As you can tell from the title, this story is all about a ladybug who is very grouchy. He does not want to share his aphids and he wants to fight all creatures he encounters. Sound like your toddler, by chance? Besides the mention of aphids, this book is not scientifically about insects. However, it helps to introduce some important vocabulary and early characterization skills.
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The Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
Notice a theme here? We really love Eric Carle books! In The Very Lonely Firefly, the firefly goes on a quest to find other fireflies, but finds other things that glow instead. This is a perfect book for teaching sequencing, an important literary skill. You could gather as many of the real life objects as you can (i.e. flashlight, candle, lantern) and ask your toddler to retell the story events using the objects.
Check out these fun crafts for additional activities to accompany this sweet story.
Related Post: 3 Guaranteed Reasons to Love Eric Carle
Preschool at Home: Bug-Themed Math Activities
For these activities, you may want to get a set of pre-made Bug Toys or you can make your own cutouts of insects. I recommend at least three different kinds (i.e. ladybugs, ants, and butterflies).
Sorting is always a great preschool activity. You can ask your toddler to sort the bugs by type, size, or color. After sorting, you can count the number of bugs in each group together. You can also ask your toddler to compare the groups to determine which group has “more” and which group has “less”. The ability to make a visual determination about the size of a group is a great beginning towards developing number sense.
There are two different ways to do this next activity. First, grab a group of your bug toys or cutouts. Depending on the number your child is comfortable with, grab 5 or 10 bugs. How do you know what number your child is comfortable with? Great question! You assess where your child is at. I recommend checking out Kathy Richardson’s assessments. I use her assessments in the elementary classroom all the time.
For counting, you want to determine the following:
Can my child count one item for each number? (One-to-one correspondence)
Can my child count in an organized fashion (i.e. move items to one pile)
Does my child notice when he/she counts the group of objects incorrectly?
Is my child able to say “how many” are in the group after counting?
Can my child recognize different configurations of a given number (i.e. 2 reds and 1 green are 3, 2 greens and 1 red are 3)
For this bug counting activity, I recommend saying the number first and asking your child to represent that number using the bugs. For example, say, “Show me 5 bugs.” You can use a place mat or a piece of construction paper as your child’s work space. Then, you can ask additional questions like:
- Can you show me 5 a different way?
- What would be one more than 5?
- Can you show me one less than 5?
Once you have asked the questions orally, use number cards. For example, show your child the number “5” and ask them to show you that many on their place mat. This will help with number recognition, as well as counting.
Bug Book Counting
Anytime you can incorporate math and literacy, you are in for a win-win. The May Small Box from The Learning Box Preschool Program came with a bug-themed sight word counting book that I loved. I am not an affiliate for this preschool program, but I highly recommend it. It is a bit pricey, so I asked the grandparents to chip in and make this my daughter’s Christmas/Birthday gift!
Bugs in Your Backyard uses simple, predictable text to help count different types of bugs. There are bugs to count on each page. I asked my daughter to point to each bug as she counted. After numerous repeated readings, she can “read” and count the bugs on each page on her own.
Counting books are perfect for reinforcing counting skills, as well as early reading skills like identifying sight words and reading books with predictable text. Here are a few more fun counting books to “bug out” over.
Preschool at Home: Bug-Themed Science Activities
Doing a bug-themed unit just naturally lends itself to science. Incorporating science activities into your preschool program is also a great way to reinforce literacy and math skills. Plus, science is fun both you and your little one!
Observing Live Bugs
One of the best ways to learn is by observing the real thing. You can order live caterpillars from a site like Insect Lore delivered straight to your door. Then, your preschooler can observe the life cycle of a butterfly. It really is amazing to watch these little creatures grow and change. One might say it like watching your own little one grow and change!
In addition to your live creepy crawlies that come in their own container with food, you will need a butterfly garden. Those butterflies will need room to fly after they emerge from their chrysalis. You can get everything you need for your new adult butterflies on Amazon.
For each stage of the butterfly life cycle, ask your toddler to draw and try to describe what they see. Making observations is an important skills for young scientists to develop!
A note for parents on growing your own butterflies. At some point, you will need to release your butterflies. This experience of letting your butterflies go may be very difficult for your toddler. You will need to spend a lot of time discussing each stage before releasing the butterflies. It may be helpful to explain that once the butterflies are released, they will lay their eggs and the cycle will begin again.
Identifying the Parts of a Bug
Insects have three body parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen. I know that these may be some big vocabulary words for your little tyke, but it is never too early to begin using correct terminology. You can create your own diagram to illustrate each body part.
Bumble Bee Bodies
- 2 yellow construction paper circles
- 1 black construction paper oval
- white crayon, black crayon
- white tissue paper square
- 1 black pipe cleaner
Ask your toddler to glue together the two yellow construction paper circles to represent the head and the thorax.
Then, ask your toddler to glue the black construction paper to the circles to represent the abdomen.
Next, tell your child to use the black crayon to draw the eyes on the head. Then, use the white crayon to draw stripes on the abdomen.
If your toddler is ready for scissors, ask them to cut wings out of the tissue paper and glue them on the back of their “bumble bee”.
Cut the pipe cleaner in half and glue to the bee’s head. Voila, bumble bee!
It is also important for your preschooler to know that insects have six legs. You can print pictures of various creepy crawlers and cut them out. Then, ask your preschooler to sort the bugs by which ones have six legs and which ones do not. For example, ants and grasshoppers have six legs. Spiders and centipedes have more than six legs. They do not have to count the legs necessarily, just be able to differentiate between insects and other types of creepy crawlies.
Preschool at Home: Bug-Themed Arts and Crafts
Your toddler will instantly love anything that involves paint, glue, and scissors. There are so many opportunities for learning when your toddler is getting messy! Plus, your little one will get to express their creativity.
- black construction paper circle (small)
- red construction paper circle (large)
- 1 sheet black construction paper
- black paint
- Optional: 2 googly eyes
Glue the red construction paper circle to the black construction paper circle to create the head and body.
Ask your toddler to cut out six legs and two antennae out of the black construction paper sheet.
Pour the black paint onto a paper plate. Ask your toddler to dip their finger into the paint to create the dots on ladybug’s back.
Optional: Glue two googly onto the ladybug’s head or ask your toddler to draw two eyes with white crayon.
Pasta Life Cycle Craft
I did this activity with my students. It’s fun and messy. However, it also helps kids visualize an insect’s life cycle.
- construction paper
- liquid glue
- lentils (eggs)
- fusilli pasta (larva/caterpillar)
- conchiglie pasta (pupa/chrysalis)
- farfalloni pasta (butterfly)
- optional: food coloring and white vinegar
1. Use the marker to divide the construction paper into fourths. Label each quadrant with the stages of the life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult).
2. Optional: Dye the pasta.
3. Then, ask your toddler to glue each type of pasta to the correct quadrant. Allow to dry.
Tissue Paper Butterfly
This one reminds me of something Eric Carle himself would like!
- construction paper
- multi-colored tissue paper
1. Draw an outline of will a butterfly on the construction paper.
2. Give your preschooler several pieces of different colored tissue paper. It can be scraps oer already used! Next, ask your toddler to cut the tissue paper into scraps. They can be various sizes and shapes, it will add to the look!
3. Ask your toddler to glue the scraps to the butterfly outline in any order or pattern. I suggest asking your toddler to put glue all over the butterfly and then placing the tissue paper in any hodge-podge pattern.
Preschool at Home: Bug Theme Final Tips
Check Out Nonfiction
Visit your local library and check out nonfiction books on bugs. Young children are exposed to a great deal of fiction text, but not a lot of nonfiction. Providing access to nonfiction text will help your child understand the format and features of nonfiction text, an important skill for later on.
There are plenty of nonfiction board books available your library, but even checking out the pictures of a higher level text is great, too. Hint: Boys especially tend to love nonfiction.
Don’t Bug Out
If there is a particular insect that your preschooler wants to learn about, go for it! Butterflies are less creepy crawly than some of the others, so I planned on teaching my daughter about them the most. However, my daughter wanted to know about pill bugs, of course. I learned that they have three body parts, but they actually have fourteen legs, not six. Also, there are only two stages to development (egg and adult). My point, is I learned something new, too.
From Beginning to End
Have your lessons and activities planned in advance for preschool. I use a milk crate and file folders to keep everything organized. However, be prepared for lessons or activities to take longer or shorter than anticipated. At this age, you want learning to be fun. So, if your preschooler is really into something, let them take their time.
Bonus Tip: After you finish a unit, you can gather all of their activities to make a book. Create a simple cover with a title and let your toddler decorate it. This is perfect for reviewing what you have learned while keeping all of their work organized. Plus, your toddler can go back and “read” their themed book to you. An educational keepsake! Win-win!
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What are you bugging out about in your preschool at home? Are you doing some great things or do you need some more ideas? Please comment and share below!