By contributing writer Colleen
I love summertime, don’t you? My kids and I try to get outside as much as we possibly can to enjoy the seasons all year round, but summer usually finds us out there from morning until late night. And since I’m on a mission to raise my kids to be lifelong learners and to love exploring and discovering the answers to their world themselves, I try to incorporate as many learning experiences as possible.
The best thing is – the kids don’t even realize they are learning!
Did you know that insects are super important to the health and well-being of our environment? It’s true! Take gardening for instance. While there are many insects that can damage vegetables and flowers, some can be really good for your garden.
One of our favorite activities to do each summer is to raise ladybugs and release them into our garden to help protect our tomato plants from aphids. Ladybugs are amazing. These little beetles prey on tiny plant-eating pests like aphids. In fact, ladybugs can eat as many as 5,000 aphids in a year!
Can you imagine eating that many cheeseburgers in one year? Whew!
Do you have a garden at home? If you’re interested in raising ladybugs, I highly recommend the Ladybug Land kit from Insectlore. It comes with a habitat, food, and a certificate to order larvae so you and your kids can watch them go through the process of metamorphosis.
If you’d rather attract ladybugs to your garden naturally, try making a simple ladybug lair using this activity from my book, Hands-On Ecology: Real-Life Activities for Kids.
- Oatmeal container or another round container with a lid
- Acrylic paint
- Polyurethane or spray sealer
- Craft knife
1. Decorate the container with acrylic paints and let dry.
2. Seal the container with polyurethane or an acrylic sealer.
3. Cut a small, thin window at the top of the container and a door at the bottom.
4. Hang the house from a tree using the wire.
If creating your own ladybug lair is not something you want to mess with but you still want to encourage ladybugs to eat pests in your garden, you can try a premade house instead. You can even order a big bag of ladybugs to populate the ladybug house instead of waiting around for new occupants to just show up.
Whatever you decide to do with your kids, introducing ladybugs to your garden is a great way to extend learning into the summer months. Be sure to talk about the insect’s life cycle using models or a simple nonfiction book, and then enjoy these friendly insects with your kids.