Why your child should embrace insects, not fear them
Many children are taught insect-aversion from a young age, and it is to their own detriment. Anything that crawls is too-often portrayed as potentially hazardous. It is true, some insects can bite and sting. But less than one percent of all insect species are actually considered pests. Once you learn how to distinguish those that are harmful, you can begin to appreciate those that are not.
The vast majority of species are not only harmless to humans, but many are beneficial. In addition to performing necessary ecological functions, they offer a valuable opportunity for children to learn about life, death, growth, compassion, care, and above all, curiosity and wonder. But how should parents teach their children to embrace insects rather than fear them?
Step 1: Getting Over Your Own Fear
I can think of quite a few times throughout my years of teaching families about insects when parents were obviously uncomfortable being around bugs. Children are very good at picking up on this discomfort. If they see their parent displaying fear, it is natural for them to follow suit. Despite this, the parents who were most effective around insects were not necessarily the least fearful. Instead, the parents who taught their children the most valuable lessons were those who were willing to overcome their fear of insects.
Step 2: Catch a bug
One of the reasons insects offer such valuable educational opportunities to children is their accessibility. Insects are everywhere, around every corner, just waiting to be discovered. Unlike other animals (yes, insects are indeed animals), insects can easily be picked up and held. This allows them to not only be seen, but also to be experienced. Feeling the bristly hairs of a caterpillar or the tickle of a ladybug’s feet engages children directly with the creatures they are observing.
Step 3: Get a field guide
With over a million species of insects in the world, it is not unusual for even an urban backyard to host hundreds of insect species. Identifying every insect you find is impossible, but many insect field guides will focus on the most common and distinctive species that you are likely to encounter. Thumbing through a good field guide with your child will empower them to learn and discover, and even if you don’t succeed in matching a name to the insect you’ve found, you will have learned the names of many more through the process of browsing your field guide. There are also many fantastic internet resources to help identify the bugs you find. Once we begin to put a name to the creatures we discover, we can form a deeper understanding and appreciation for how incredible they are.
Online Resources: Bugguide.net, inaturalist.org, whatsthatbug.com