My young son has recently been fascinated by the abundance of six-legged creatures in our garden since the weather has started warming up. Aside from the occasional task of convincing him they belong out amongst the flowers and not in his pocket, we've found it to be extremely helpful in demonstrating the beauty of the outdoors and getting him to notice a world that does not belong just to us.
Ladybirds, for example, are fantastic for such an exercise. They're benign, can’t bite little fingers, are good for the garden, and colourful – which makes them easy to find. My son is particularly interested in ladybirds and follows them as they crawl on various flowers and plants. It's very encouraging when he finds one and puts it in the flowerbed. Our favourite thing to do is watch them as they crawl up and down the plant, giving us a wonderful opportunity to share our knowledge (albeit sometimes limited) of nature and the bug's role in the world's cycle of vegetation. It has also given us the excuse to encourage my little boy to smell the flowers and appreciate the different colours in nature that are used to attract the bugs. We've found this exercise to start taking hold in his head as the other day, while walking to the bus, he stopped to smell a bush of honeysuckle which demonstrates an awareness of his surroundings and the pleasure that a simple plant can bring.
Bugs have also provided my son a greater appreciation for earth and planting in general. What is currently thought of only as mud fodder or something else to throw, is treated more gently when he finds a worm, or a 'noodle' as he describes it or an ant. We recently planted a number of onion bulbs in our garden and he was extremely pleased to find worms clambering in and around the bulbs. He has also taken to placing various bugs on the sprouts that have come out since then as they are the bugs' “home” and he has been told that the bugs help the planted vegetables grow.
As squeamish as I generally am about creepy crawlies, I have to admit that the whole circus of six and eight legged creatures in our yard and increased (if that was even possible) my son's love of the outdoors. He can squat and watch and ant walk around an ant hill for minutes (which is in itself impressive) and apart from the rare 'mash it' instances, is intrigued by their movements and their sense of direction to our flowerbeds. Interestingly, I believe that these bugs have taught my son a sense of patience and appreciation for nature, for flowers and for being outside, that has shown in his recent tendencies to literally stop and smell the flowers.
For the family, it encourages us to do the same. Nature is a wonder and it’s funny that it’s the smaller creatures (the bugs, our children, etc) are capable of teaching us such a great lesson.