When children have opportunities to interact with wildlife, a whole new world of wonder can open up. There is so much information out there that shows children who are supported in their love for animals tend to generalize that love to other living things. When children are encouraged to care for animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. By providing children with the opportunity to observe and care for wildlife, you are helping nurture those feelings of connection and empathy of ALL living things.
One form of wildlife widely and easily accessible are bugs, insects and worms. There are also several learning moments when exploring these. As we all know, children are not aware of their power. This means that often children simply don’t expect to kill the creatures when they step on them, and children can be quite upset to learn that it has died. This is a great moment to educate children on how their bodies impact others around them. As educators, we bring in the language of “gentle” or “careful” to encourage the appropriate touch or lack of when exploring tiny living things.
As we do with all other life situations it is important for you to allow children to observe and share their discoveries. Encourage their questions and conversations. By giving children a moment to explore wildlife, they are learning the importance of the world around them. It takes the focus off from themselves, even if just for a moment. Exploring tiny living things requires nothing more than curiosity and willingness to engage and observe.
“I find a bug” – 3 year old notices a pill bug on a nearby piece of driftwood and watches as it moves
“It’s a worm!” – 1 1/2 year old investigates a worm found in the garden
“Look me so gentle” – 3 year old lets an ant crawl on their hand
These two children have a conversation about how it feels in their hands “gooey and slimy”
“No bite me. It tickles, fuzzy hair” – 3 year old describes this tent caterpillar
This child was turning over stumps in our loose parts area on our playground and found this pill bug “Oh look at him, he is so wiggly!”