Let Them Grow: How Bugs Can Teach Toddlers Kindness & Tolerance

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Bugs of Summer

Toddlers love bugs and insects or they are terrified of them! Either way the curiosity that bugs and insects evoke in young children is endless. I am a true believer that a child that is exposed to the natural world around will have a heightened respect and a deep regard for that world. Insect’s can be scary, they are foreign, and they don’t speak, ride bikes, or eat crackers. They come in thousands of shapes and sizes. Some are safe to touch and some are not. Some are a nuisance and some are allies. How can we teach our toddlers to be kind and safe around bugs and set aside our own deep-seated opinions on bugs? How can we show them the world wouldn’t be the same without bugs? A great book for this is the 1967 classic  Be Nice to Spiders by Margret Bloy Graham. This books looks at a zoo over run with flies without the help of spiders. It is a fun read and a great topic of discussion. 

Another important thing to think about is that squishing and killing bugs in front of your young child. The first time this happens just might be the last time an ant lives near your toddler. If it is necessary to get a bug outside or to remove it, do so carefully, or when your child is not looking. Teaching your child to be kind to even the smallest creature is a value they can carry with them throughout their whole lives.

Art is a great way to talk about the important of insects and the value of kindness.

A fun insect based activity is Spider painting:

  • Plastic Spiders
  • Black Paper
  • White Paint

Using plastic spider (not real one) have your toddler dip the spiders in non-toxic paint and walk them around the paper.

This activity can be done with plastic ants while singing the song, “The Ants Go Marching One By One,” airing an interest in insects with art and math!

Activities that support an interest in insects for toddles can be simple. One such activity is collection of bugs in a jar. Being careful not to hurt the bugs, place them in a jar for examining. Talk to your child about what a bug’s life must be like. They’re so small, the world is so big. Where do bugs live? What do they eat? Exposing your child to bugs early on is less about education and more about empathy and understanding; Its about teaching love and kindness, acceptance and tolerance.

Some other great books to read are:

  • Some Bugs: Angela Diterlizzi
  • Very Busy Spider: Eric Carle
  • Hey Little Ant: Phillip Hoose
  • Grasshopper on the Road: Arnold Lobel


Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programming for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.


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