By Kathryn Peck
It’s spring, and I’m always saying to the kids, “let’s get outside!” Turns out, my daughter is terrified of bees, and in the early spring, they’re out in full force. After school, when everyone’s running around outside, playing with the dog and climbing on the swing set, my daughter is nowhere to be seen. She quietly goes inside and stays there.
They say to face your fears, but it’s ok to be scared. We push for hands-on exploration with our children, but it’s ok not to want to touch a bug. Seriously, I don't even want to touch them. Those gigantic Wolf spiders? The name is alarming enough. And the pincer in the back of a common Earwig looks ominous, to say the least.
It is not lost on me, however, that it’s going to be a very long summer if my daughter refuses to be outdoors for fear of bugs, and particularly bees. There are things parents can do to try to help a child become less afraid of bugs, even in the slightest.
- Set a good example. If you stay calm around insects—especially bees and wasps—chances are your child will learn to do the same. I really don’t like touching worms, but I do in front of my kids. I try not to shriek when I see a house centipede (you know the ones…), and it’s not easy.
- Get up close and personal. Use a net to carefully pick up the bug and get a closer look at it.
- Study it. Get curious about bugs and learn more about them. Find a plastic container with air holes and enjoy the experience of making a terrarium for the insect. Don’t forget a magnifying glass. After a short time, release the bug back outside.
- Take photos. Grab your phone and let your little one take pictures of the bug to remember it or learn more about it later at home.
- Draw a picture. Grab your art supplies and get creative by drawing or painting a picture of the bug. It will encourage you to spot the details. Notice the colors and shapes of the insect.
Here are a few things that might help to turn an otherwise scary experience into a more fun experience:
Bug Playground so little ones can learn about bug behavior through close observation and reading the activity booklet that's included. Yup, this playground for bugs has a crawling tube, a curly slide, climbing wall, and jungle gym. What cricket, beetle, or ant wouldn't love this?
Safari Ltd Insect Toob includes 14 plastic insects that you can hold in the palm of your hand, including a caterpillar, dragonfly, centipede, grasshopper, housefly, ladybug, spider, honeybee, cockroach, scorpion, praying mantis, ant, and 2 butterflies. Perhaps it's better than the real thing for now.
Lakeshore Learning's Real Bugs Discover Kit offers an up-close look at 12 amazing bugs that are permanently encased in indestructible acrylic. The set comes with a fascinating fact book and handy magnifier—all in a cute storage tray with labeled compartments for each bug.
"Insects" book, part of the Little Explorer book series, is an information-packed nonfiction book for young readers that's filled with insect life fun facts. Behind more than 30 flaps, readers will explore the lives and habitats of brilliant bugs like dragonflies, moths, spiders, beetles, and much more.
Gel Ant Habitat (with ants!) provides an exciting opportunity to explore the underground world of ants. This self-contained ant environment kit includes everything you’ll need to start keeping ants. The gel is both the food and water, so you'll be able to observe their lifestyle up close.
Outdoor Science Lab includes more than 21 hands-on-activities and real science tools that invite kids to identify, classify, measure, test, and analyze the world around them. A 32-page illustrated science book features experiments related to soil, bugs, rocks, plants, and water.
Oh, and have I mentioned my 4-year-old son is also terrified of spiders? Round and round we go, I suppose. In the end, be patient, and remember: it’s ok if your child doesn’t want to touch a bug.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.
Photo credit: iStock.com/miljko