Bugs--kids either love them or hate them! You may be blessed to have a budding entomologist on your hands--a child who is part human and part insect. He's fascinated by compound eyes, metallic exoskeletons, and gossamer wings. Nothing can stop him from sneaking his latest "catch" into the house. Then again, you might have a child who is genuinely repulsed by anything that creeps around on eight legs (or less). Just the mention of the word "bug," and his skin begins to crawl. In fact, you may be scratching your head right now. Well, scratch no further, because you are about to learn about the many valuable lessons insects can teach your children!

Nature Journaling

If there is one method of study that is tailor-made for bugs and children, its nature journaling! Nature journaling enables a child to see beyond the ordinary into God's extraordinary creation. The connection between observing a bug firsthand and drawing it is a skill that surpasses the momentary glance that most humans give an insect. The definition of the word observation is "The act of observing or taking notice; the act of seeing or fixing the mind on anything." There is a vast difference between looking at something and really seeing it. Seeing takes time.

When I was a little girl, I spent many hours catching dragonflies in the fields that surrounded our home in northern Illinois. Enthralled as I was with their delicate forms, I never thought of drawing them from life. It wasn't until my daughter Elizabeth (age 5 at the time) found delight in the wildflowers and dragonflies on our hill that a childlike curiosity was born again in me. As we identified wildflowers and chased after dragonflies, a new appreciation for God's creation filled our hearts and minds. That summer we discovered what it meant to become God's naturalists.

For Younger Children

If your children are young, you can model the life of a naturalist long before they can record their own observations. Butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, field guides, and sketching equipment are all part and parcel when it comes to observing bugs. If you have time, don't hesitate to draw an insect yourself. Whether you're a beginning, intermediate, or advanced artist, you want to make the all-important connection that nature is worth recording. A mother who draws, no matter what the result, is engaging her children in the creative process. If you lack confidence in this area, trust God and put your pencil to paper by faith. I promise that over time your drawing will improve. Besides, your children won't criticize you; they'll think you're great!

If you're short on time or energy, find a picture of your specimen on the Internet and print it onto a piece of cardstock. Write the date that you sighted it, include a few important facts, and have your toddler narrate his observations to you. Slip your page into a plastic sleeve and store it in a three-ring binder. Keep it somewhere accessible so he can flip through the pages and admire "his" bugs.

Your whole family will go "buggy" once they realize how fun it is to study insects. Discuss your most recent specimen with Dad at the dinner table. My husband has become one of our biggest bug catchers. One summer he collected an Imperial moth, a green darner dragonfly, a katydid, a praying mantis, and a virgin tiger moth. Claire found a dead hummingbird moth lying on the driveway (we've never seen one since). Elizabeth found grasshopper moltings dangling off the tall grass in our field. You never know where or when you will find a bug or its remnants, so be on the lookout and be flexible--that teachable moment may not come again!

For Older Children

Do you have a child who's frightened of bugs or feels artistically challenged? Well, there are lots of ways to broaden your child's nature journaling experience, making even the most timid onlooker a keen observer of the natural world. Spring, summer, and fall are the best seasons to stock up on "live" insect specimens, so take advantage of photographing, preserving, and drawing any insect that scurries or flies across your path.