Sitting down to write this post about a diy bug playground, a couple of things came to mind immediately.
The first is that, “kids love bugs” is pretty much a universal truth faced at one point or another by every parent. It’s inevitable that most children will enthusiastically volunteer to be the “assistant” at bug zoo presentations in science museums, pine for an ant farm of their own (or an orange smoothie isopod colony), and plead to keep a grasshopper as a pet.
The second is that while good bug housing such as a small plastic tank is readily available, the bug playgrounds on offer are not great. They cost more than they should (in my opinion), don’t seem to be high quality, and frankly make me worry that their tiny patrons will be safe using them.
Fortunately I was compelled by a small person to create a safe place for our millipede guest to stretch his forty some odd little legs. It didn’t cost anything and the entire bug playground craft took only 10 minutes. The best part is that we were able to observe the critter’s behavior and modify the setup to maximize the playground’s usability.
- A clean clear plastic disposable cookie container (the bakery ladies at Publix will usually give you one if you ask nicely…and you may get a sugar cookie sample too)
- An empty cracker or cereal box
- Gently break the glue strip holding the side of the cracker/cereal box together and lay flat. This glued joint is usually next to the nutrition facts panel.
- Cut a piece of cardboard that is the correct shape and size to fit into the bottom of the cookie container. It’s ok if it isn’t perfect as long as it can lay flat in the bottom–you don’t want anyone sneaking under the cardboard.
- Here’s where it gets super fun: discuss what sorts of “play equipment” your bug friends might enjoy and pick three. It could be arches, a wavy climbing wall, a tube to push around, the sky’s the limit! Well, not really, but you get the idea.
- Make obstacles and stick them down to the brown side of the base you made in step #2. Be sure to leave plenty of crawl space between pieces of “play equipment”. No sticky parts of tape should be accessible to bug visitors.
- Make sure the container can close completely, do a final safety check, and gently place your invertebrate friend into the enclosure. Secure the lid. Observe what sorts of activities seem to appeal to the bugs.
- Make sure to supervise all play.
- Bugs should probably go back in their home containers after five or so minutes of exercise to prevent dehydration.
- All adjustments to “play equipment” should probably be done between play sessions while bugs are in their homes.
So there you have it! Easy peasy art/science crossover fun for bug-loving little ones and it won’t cost you anything but quality bonding time. The best part? Watching a millipede scale the climbing wall with your child. Well…that was the best part for me anyway.