Level 1: Insects + Spiders Unit

This unit is all about the creepy, crawly little creatures that outnumber us by millions! 🐝🐛🦋🐞🐜🦟🦗🕷(But don’t worry—they’re actually much more interesting than scary!) You will learn about a few specific insects and spiders while also refining your child’s fine and gross motor skills, crafting, and even taking a field trip or two. Be sure to explore the outdoors and look for insects near you. (Although it isn’t part of our lessons and activities, you could also try collecting bugs as described here or in this idea.) And don’t forget to download our printable tracker to record all the books you read and activities you try!

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional chapter book:

Bonus family activity: Plan a family movie night! Pop some popcorn and end your week by watching A Bug’s Life as a family.

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Number of the week: 4, 5

Ready to meet a couple new numbers this week? Our numbers of the week are 4 and 5. Introduce counting and writing the numbers (numerically and as words) with this coloring printout. Throughout the week, look for opportunities to count and combine manipulatives (for example, a spider has four legs on each side of its body!) to give your child a holistic understanding of these numbers.

Lesson 1:

Let’s start the week by reading Insect Detective. As you read each page, discuss it. Ask your child questions, and have them narrate the details back to you in a natural conversational way. (Never tried narration before? Watch our quick video to understand why it’s important and learn how to do it.)

Review these key facts as you prepare for the next activity: What is an insect? An insect has 6 legs and three parts to its body. The parts are called the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Insects also have two antennas. Some insects have wings. All insects start life as an egg.

Activity 1: Let’s practice learning the body parts of an insect with an activity that will also reinforce your child’s number skills—win-win! First, print the game here. You will only need one of the first page for reference, but then you should print enough of the second page for each person who will be playing. Cut apart the second page so each body part is its own piece. You will also need one die.

After reviewing the insect body parts on the first sheet with your child, explain that each body part will correspond with a number on the die for our game. Each player will take turns rolling the die, collecting the parts of their insect. (Depending on your child’s patience and attention span, you can decide if your want one roll of 2 to get both antennae or if you need to roll it twice to get both. Same for the legs!)

If they roll the number of a piece they already have, it’s the next player’s turn. The first person to build a whole insect wins!

Activity 2: Let’s review the parts of an insect by making some play dough bugs! Your child will need play dough, cut-up straws, and some googly eyes. First, have them build a bug with the correct parts (helping them to identify and name the head, thorax, abdomen, antennae, and eyes). Then, let them stretch the limits of nature by creating their own version!

Activity 3: To be or not to be…an insect! Let’s sort out any animal figurines you have at home in addition to your insect and spider figurines (or stickers if you bought those instead). First, print our sorting sheet here. Next, put all your figurines into a bowl or bag and have your child pick one at a time. (Or pick one sticker at a time.) Discuss each animal as you select it and practice using critical thinking skills to determine which category it falls into.

What happens if they make a mistake? It’s okay, we promise! Check out this great video from one of our contributors, Juli Williams, to help you navigate those moments.

Activity 4: Matching activity. Print two copies of these bug cards on cardstock and play a matching or memory game.

Lesson 2:

Bees are one of the most important pollinating insects. 🐝 Let’s begin by reading the book The Honeybee Man to learn more about these fascinating insects. Again, use the narration technique to discuss this book with your child. Focus on what new details you are learning right along with them as you read together.

Activity 1: Let’s watch this video to learn more about bees and their hives. If you are able, visit a beekeeper’s hive in your area. Many offer educational opportunities to help kids to learn in a safe way. (Here are more tips if you do visit a hive.) This website might help you find one close to you. Additionally, many museums also have hives in clear boxes so that students can visit and observe the bees.

Activity 2: Bees are important pollinators. Review pollination using the book What’s Inside a Flower? And Other Questions About Science and Nature by Rachel Ignotofsky from the Flowers Unit. Now, let’s be a bee! First, create this simple bee finger puppet craft (make one for you and one for your child). Next, make your flower bed with this simple craft. To bring the activity to life, sprinkle some mustard powder or turmeric on some of the pom poms. Tell your child that each flower has pollen and that the spice represents the pollen. You and your child can now “pollinate” the flowers with your finger bees. Point out the transfer of powder as the bees travel from flower to flower, and examine the body of the bee as well.

Activity 3: Bee life cycle printable. Use this poster to reinforce the lessons learned in our book and our video for the day. Review the details with your child or ask them to narrate the cycle to you. To make the activity more hands-on, you can also cut out the cards and have your child rebuild the cycle on their work surface or a separate piece of paper.

Activity 4: Have you ever heard someone say “They are as busy as a bee!” This expression comes from how bees move and how busy they are working all day long. They fly back and forth to their hives pollinating and making honey. Be inspired to be busy like the bee as we listen to the classical song “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov. In this activity, you and your child can move around your home “working” like a bee. Clean up toys, run around, zig zag, and dance like a bee—any kind of movement will work!

Optional field trip: Have a honey taste test! 🍯 This time of year, you will often find bee honey at farmer’s markets. Sometimes they have tasting straws they sell or to sample so you can taste the different types of honey. If this is available in your area, have a tasting party with your child. Discuss why the honey tastes different and make connections with today’s lessons on pollination and what we learned in our book.

Lesson 3:

Let’s learn about a few of our favorite insects today. Review or re-read your Insect Detective book, and take note of the dragonfly page. That’s where we will begin our activities today.

Activity 1: Let’s learn more about the dragonfly. This blogger has collected 10 facts about dragonflies and has a wonderful craft to engage your child’s fine motor skills.

Activity 2: Next, let’s learn about the leaf cutter ant. Introduce the book The Life and Times of the Ant and look for the pictures on pages 26 and 27 about the clever leaf cutter ant. Watch this video and then do this craft. You might want to go outside and collect a few leaves of your own to make this craft more realistic. Want more ant fun? Play this song as you work on your craft. 

Activity 3: Praying mantis. Read or watch the video of the book My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis. Afterwards, do this craft using this template. (Cut and paste it into a word document and enlarge it to fill the page before printing onto green cardstock.)

Activity 4: This week, our fine art lesson takes a creepy, crawly turn. Click over to this website and have fun asking your child to examine each piece of art and have them find the bugs! If there is any one art piece your child shows a particular interest in, dig deeper and learn the name of the artist and the piece and more about it.

Lesson 4:

Spiders are not insects…but they are pretty cool creatures! 🕷️ Start by reading this funny introduction to spiders, I Am Trying to Love Spiders.

Activity 1: Paper plate spider web. This activity will practice some fine motor skills as your child weaves a web of their own. Note to parents: You will need to have this complete before moving on to the next activity.

Activity 2: Spider silk strength experiment.

Activity 3: Spider web walk activity.

(-) Activity 4: Rescue the bugs with this fine motor activity bin. (Note: The activity calls for green-dyed rice. This is optional, but you will be able to use it again in an upcoming unit—so save it if you make it!)

Lesson 5:

Let’s continue our spider fun today. We are going to learn about two specific types of spiders. The first is called a tarantula in this video. Next, this video about a very clever spider called Portia, a jumping spider. (Note: She is a spider eating spider, so you might want to watch it first to make sure it won’t scare your child.)

Activity 1: This blogger has created a huge PDF full of spider worksheets. We are only going to work with a few of her ideas today. Print out pages 12-17 and 63. (We will also be printing some pages from this PDF for the next math activity.) For this activity, let’s focus on the spider’s life cycle and body parts. First, using the pages 12-17, review the life cycle of a spider. Next, practice writing spider words. Use your Montessori letters or another letter manipulative from a previous lesson to practice these new words.
(+)If your child is ready for copy work, provide them with the sample word and lined paper and ask them to copy the words.
(+) Ready for a bit more? Write out a sentence for your child and have them copy it.
(++) Want another upgrade? Use page 63 to have some word search fun. This is a great activity for kids who are starting to identify words!

Activity 2: Spider Math. Using the same PDF from the previous lesson, review the math options and find the one that’s right for your child.

  • Pages 26 and 27 are great for those that are working on their counting skills and number identification. Use clothespins to identify the correct number that matches the picture.
  • If you are working on addition, print out pages 29 and 30.
  • If you are working on subtraction, print pages 31 and 32. Remember to use counters to help your child make this abstract idea come to life.
  • Ready for a new challenge? Look at page 49 for some sequences. This practices counting and skip counting. Cut the page into three parts so that you work on only one problem at a time. 

Activity 3: Spider craft. This video doesn’t come with instructions so we reached out to the Instagrammer who posted it and got these directions from her:

  1. Cut out a spider with construction paper. Glue or tape on some eyes and legs.
  2. Attach two plastic straw pieces (about 2 inches long) to the back of your spider body with hot glue or tape, like this:

3. Pass one long thread or string through both straw pieces so you end up with two ends to hold at the bottom of the spider and several feet of string or thread for the spider to climb. (We also tied beads to the ends of the yarn to keep them from falling back through the straws.)

4. Hang the loop of that thread some place high like a door knob as in the video.

5. Hold the two ends in your hand. Next keep your hands apart, strings stretched and begin pulling alternate ends to get the spider to crawl up the string.

Activity 4: Make an antenna headband and have your child be a bug while they do this spider’s web obstacle course. This blogger had several ideas, but we are just going to borrow one. Scroll down to the obstacle course for instructions on how to put it together, and let’s get moving! Ask your child to pretend to be a bug trying to avoid the spider’s web. This is done with a party streamer, but you can also use yarn to do the same thing.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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