Flickr photo by JSF306You can look at the return of the bugs with the warm weather as a giant pain in your mosquito-bitten arm, but what's the fun in that?
Throw on some aloe, because it's time to go bug hunting!
Raised in the country, this is an old standby, especially when funds are low and it's hot as the dickens (whatever they are).
My mom made my daughter a bug jar that looks awfully similar to one I had as a kid -- an empty Skippy peanut butter jar (plastic) with holes poked in the lid to let the bugs breathe.
We'll fill it with fireflies and pretend we've found Ray from The Princess and the Frog in a few months, but more recently it was home to a ladybug, some sticks, and some grass.
Watching the bugs is only half the fun -- the rest is the actual hunt. They learn where the different insects like to hang out (crickets beneath the stone, ladybugs on the stalks of our plants).
Photo from AmazonAlthough it is a free activity, we recently improved the experience with the test of an inexpensive goodie sent to The Stir: The Bug View Bug Catcher ($7.44) from Carson Optical solved the problem of capturing the critters without hurting them.
A long handle allows the kids to remain far enough away that they don't startle the bug, while they place the viewer over top to magnify the creature and get a good look. If they want to take him inside for some better examination -- or capture him for their bug jar -- the flick of a lever slides a thin plastic sheet under the insect to trap him in place.
The trapping can be done with a cup and an index card, and if you want magnification, you can opt for something like the bug loupe ($7.80).
Also a possibility -- but not necessary -- is their own bug hunting hat. The gardening hat ($6.99) for kids from Melissa and Doug's Sunny Patch line fits right in with the theme.
Still keeping it free? That's fun too -- tell us what bugs your kids are bananas for.