It is an amazing feeling as you watch children investigate the natural world around them. You will observe them exploring and demonstrating their natural inquisitiveness, playing and finding out about the world around them. You will observe them chatting about what they have found, exploring new language and engaging in, and enjoying what they have set out to do.
Going on a bug hunt provides a fantastic focus for learning within all areas of the EYFS and can be used to identify the characteristics of effective learning, as it involves playing and exploring, active learning, creating and thinking critically.
Whether it is practising numbers by counting the legs on the bugs or recognising colours while talking about the characteristics of each bug, it is the making of links to past knowledge and finding out new things which help practitioners to recognise these characteristics of effective learning.
In line with this, an essential element to practice is being able to move a child on to the next steps of their learning and development.
How bug hunting links to the EYFS
Communication, language and literacy
The natural outdoor environment provides endless opportunities for open-ended questions. Children’s confidence and self-esteem are promoted as there are so many exciting discoveries which can prompt a range of questions.
Open-ended questions will always encourage chatter, such as ‘Where do you think this bug might live? Children engage in chatter about the bugs they may find, what colour or how many legs! Singing and circle time can easily be enjoyed in the outdoor environment, with bug related songs, such as ‘Five little caterpillars’.
Stories are always a favourite and the outdoor environment is a wonderful place to share a book or two. The timely use of open questions ‘I wonder what…’, ‘How / why did that happen…?’ are showing how you are interested in what the child is doing / saying and is an essential element in supporting the child’s learning, and their confidence in expressing their own ideas.
Waiting and giving the child time to start a conversation, to think and communicate, and responding positively will make them feel good. Likewise, helping the child to respond and develop what they want to say, and offering suggestions and alternative ideas will engage them in the chosen idea, and prolong their interest.
Personal, social and emotional
Self confidence and a feeling of worth are essential in developing and learning, and an outdoor learning experience is a fantastic opportunity to offer this to children. Give them small achievable tasks in areas that interest them, and the opportunity to play independently. They could be challenged to be the first to find a particular bug, or they could play together in a team to follow a simple nature trail. Provide a ‘treasure’ at the end of the trail for each to find!
It has been observed that less confident children are often very much more relaxed in an outdoor, less structured environment. The freedom to express themselves, to fully engage and reflect on the acivities they have enjoyed and to have the time to do this in an unhurried natural play area, has to add to the children’s holistic development. Sitting with them at the end of their bug hunt to look at, and maybe record their findings, is a wonderful way to share experiences and supports those who are often less confident to speak in the routine indoor circle time.
Children are able to move their bodies freely in an outdoor environment. Open space ensures they can bend, balance, twist, crawl and perhaps even climb like the mini-beasts they are endeavouring to find! To be able to run and jump, hop and skip and negotiate hazards can also give children the chance to try big action movements with their arms. This could be when they are moving through the undergrowth in search for minibeasts and carefully moving them to their viewing jars.
Choose cold days as well as hot, throughout the year, to hunt for mini beasts, ensuring that children engage in the different climates and learn how to adjust to keeping warm or staying cool. Learning how to keep themselves safe when hunting for minibeasts, and development hand-to-eye coordination all add to the child’s enjoyment.
Knowledge and understanding of the world
What better way to learn about the world around them than through firsthand experience of sight, sounds, smells and textures. Waking up all of a child’s senses has to be one of the best ways to learn! Taking spotting charts into the outdoor environment can ensure children get the best opportunity to spot and identify minibeasts, and when hunting in a bigger open space, such as a nature centre, children are able to learn where their homes are made, in trees or undergrowth and learn to respect and appreciate the natural world.
Problem solving and numeracy
Endless opportunities are waiting in the natural outdoor environment, including many to support problem solving. Language can be used to describe size, enabling children to distinguish between their findings. Or they can create labels for the counting of legs or spots on bugs.
Reflect on your findings and make comparisons, asking the children ‘Which is the longest bug?’ and ‘which is the fattest bug?’. Make predictions by asking ‘which one will move the fastest?’
Children will enjoy counting spots, observing their findings and chattering and laughing as they try to count the legs on a millipede! Finding the best place to source bugs provides the children with an experience of problem solving as they take on board the risk assessments discussed around keeping safe and ensuring care is taken with potential hazards such as overhanging branches.
It is important, however, to remember that children also need to assess risk for themselves, so suggesting strategies as children explore the outdoor environment is just one way of supporting their understanding of this important element of play.
There are many changing patterns in the outdoor environment, and children should be encouraged to notice these as they play. These can include the bark on a tree or the pattern in the clouds!
There just isn’t a better location than the outdoor environment to give children inspiration to express their creativity. Flora and fauna provide endless resources, enabling the children to build dens and create pictures, as well as enjoy making bug hotels and twig towers.
Taking their ideas back to the setting continues the creativity, with reflection on discoveries, and talk about the endless fun and imaginative play enjoyed.
By extending these activities, children develop creativity.
Credit: Practical Pre-School