Bugs aren’t all so bad! We often think of bugs as being icky, creepy crawlers, but bugs actually do great things for people and the environment. When I first started HealthBarn USA in 2005, my gardener called me on my cell phone to tell me that we had a major problem in the garden. Clearly, he had my attention. He continued to tell me that the kids were purposefully stepping on the “beneficial bugs” and that it was terrible for the garden! I immediately thought that this is a great opportunity to teach them about good bugs and bad bugs. Hence the lesson was created and now kids go down to the garden and pet the bugs – it’s just wonderful to experience.
This game teaches children to be respectful of others (and animals) in nature and accepting of their differences. This activity works best for groups, so try it out during a summer playdate!
Time: Approximately 30-45 minutes.
- Popsicle sticks
- Printouts of various bugs (ladybugs, aphids, praying mantises, beetles, spiders, flies) to be turned into “puppets”—one of each bug
- Decorating materials: crayons, tissue paper, glue, etc.
- Stapler or hot glue gun to turn printouts into puppets.
- Cardboard or oak tag to attach to back of “puppet” so they stand straight up
- “Green Material” – an herb potted plant or vegetables
Adult Prep: Monitor younger kids’ use of scissors and hot glue guns during the puppet-making activity. Then play “teacher” and help guide kids through the activity, asking questions and offering information at the right times to help them understand more about bugs.
- Make the bug puppets.
- Let kids decorate and design the printouts of the bugs with crayons or other art supplies.
- Take the finished printouts and staple or glue them to the cardboard to give them a sturdy backing, then cut the shapes out of the cardboard sheets.
- Glue the cardboard-backed printouts to the popsicle sticks to make puppets.
Play the good bugs vs. bad bugs game.
- Once the puppets are complete, take out an herb plant or some vegetables, and have the children stand in a circle as if about to play “duck duck goose,” with the “green material” in the center of the circle.
- Ask for a volunteer – this volunteer will pretend to be an aphid. Give the child an aphid “puppet.” Explain that aphids are bad bugs because they eat up plants in the garden! Have the child go into the middle of the circle and pretend to be eating the plants.
- Ask the children: “What are we going to do with this mean aphid eating our vegetables? If we don’t get rid of it soon, we aren’t going to have any food left.” Tell the children that you have good news.
- Present another child with the ladybug “puppet.” Explain that ladybugs eat aphids, so that they don’t eat the vegetables. Ladybugs are good bugs!
- Time for Ladybug, Ladybug, Aphid!
- Explain to the ladybug that it is his/her job to walk around the circle tapping each child on the head with the ladybug puppet and saying “ladybug,” until she decides to tap somebody on the head and say “aphid!” The ladybug then counts to three out loud—“ONE TWO THREE” and then chases the aphid around the circle until she catches him/her — just like Duck Duck Goose (counting to three is to give the aphid a chance to actually get away!). When the next aphid gets caught, he/she switches places with the current aphid—who is to be pretending to eat the food for the entire length of time he/she is in the middle of the circle.
- Play “Ladybug, Ladybug, Aphid” for a few minutes. Then, switch out the ladybug and aphid puppets for the beetle and praying mantis puppets. Explain that praying mantises are good bugs because they eat bad insects that like to eat our food. Choose a “beetle” to sit in the middle of the circle, and a “praying mantis” to walk outside the circle and choose another child to chase.
- Play “Praying Mantis, Praying Mantis, Beetle” for another few minutes. Encourage the child who is the beetle to act out eating the plants in the middle of the circle. The sillier, the better!
- Next transition to “Spider, Spider, Fly,” explaining that spiders eat flies that want to eat the plants in the garden. Again, encourage the child in the middle of the circle (the fly) to pretend to eat all of the plants.
- Ask the kids to explain which bugs are good and which bugs are bad, and have a discussion about what kind of bugs we want to have in the garden, and why it’s a good idea for them to be there.
- If each child hasn’t already decorated a bug “puppet,” you can let each of them make their own “good bug puppet” to bring home and help them remember how important bugs are.
I guarantee after playing this fun and educational game, your child and his friends will be all about taking care of the bugs to keep our plants and the garden healthy!!
– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA
A healthy lifestyle isn’t all about food: keeping kids active and fostering their creativity is essential for healthy development, too! In this blog, I’ll be sharing weekly activity ideas for families to do together.