Bugs – Shape Match Butterflies & Ladybugs

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We have just been “buzzing” with excitement over bug week over here! I have done a shape activity similar to this for other themes, and when my “boss mom” got these shape foam stickers for us, I knew I had to make them into a bug week project for us! Remember, you can simply cut out shapes and use glue rather than buy the stickers for your project.  No matter what, your little one will love matching up the shapes and colors on this easy to put together craft.

Craft/Activity/Snack: Shape Match Butterflies and Ladybugs
Objective: To practice shape recognition by matching shapes to the ones drawn onto butterflies, ladybugs and any other bugs you can come up with!
Skills Utilized: shape recognition, color recognition, fine motor skills (peeling sticker backs off is no easy task for little fingers!)
Suggested Reading: Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth
Materials: Butterfly shape cut out of any color paper, ladybug shape cut out of red paper, markers, foam shape stickers (found at Michaels)

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First, arrange the shape stickers on the ladybug and/or butterfly. For our butterfly, I was sure to tie in symmetry like we learned about in last weeks project.

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Next, trace around the shapes, using a marker the same color as the shape.

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I gave Maddy and her friend the bug and the shape stickers and explained to match the stickers to their shape and color. Maddy absolutely LOVED this challenge. For her, it became more of an independent activity as she named the colors and shapes on her own while peeling the stickers and carefully matching them.

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There is nothing better than seeing the pride she takes in her work!

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Ways to Expand Upon this Activity:

  1. Give older children more stickers than required for their insect so there is more of a “challenge”.
  2. Search for ladybugs and butterflies outside.

Illustrated Avatar Amanda

Bugs: The Icky Sticky Spiderweb Game

I’m the first to admit that spiders creep me out. I try not to relay that fear to my kids though and I’m always going out of my way to express wonder and awe, “ooooh, look at this beautiful sparkling web the spider made” and “wow! Did you see how many buggies this big fuzzy spider caught in her sticky web?” To put an active spin on this, I created a masking tape spiderweb for Jasper and let him explore exactly how a sticky web works.

IckySticky Spiderweb Game

Craft/Activity/Snack: Icky Sticky Spiderweb Game
Objective: To actively explore how spiderwebs catch prey, without harming any spiders in the process
Skills Utilized: science exploration, gross motor coordination, dramatic play
Suggested Reading: Seaver the Weaver by Paul Czajak
Materials: black balloons, tissue paper cut into peanut shapes (easiest way to explain it), and masking tape – oh, and a door jamb

Icky Sticky Spiderweb Materials

First, begin by making an asterisk of sorts in a doorway. Be sure that the sticky side is facing whichever room your child will be in when they are playing.Icky Sticky Spiderweb Step 1

Then, use more masking tape to connect each of the main pieces perpendicularly. Jasper was amazed by my spinster handiwork:Icky Sticky Spiderweb Step 2 Jazz

Once the web is complete, it’s time to assemble your “bugs.” Attach the wing-shaped tissue paper to the balloons using a teeny tiny bit of masking tape (to keep them as light as possible):Icky Sticky Spiderweb Balloon Fly

With the bugs complete, it’s time to play!

Icky Sticky Spiderweb Step 3

Jasper caught on right away and his first bug was stuck on the first try!Icky Sticky Spiderweb Step 4

It took a few more attempts – and lots of giggles – before bugs 2 and 3 were snagged.

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Icky Sticky Spiderweb Game

Sweet success!

Icky Sticky Spiderweb Success

This is a great way for us to have a beginner’s discussion about webs and how they work to catch bugs for spiders. While Jasper is two and a half, even older children would have a blast with this because balloons don’t quite soar with the same accuracy as a ball and even if they hit the web, there is no guarantee that it’ll stick. While we did this as part of our bug theme, this would be a fun Halloween Party game, too!

Extension Activities:

  1. Search your garden (or house, eek!) for spider webs
  2. Using white glue, draw a web onto black paper and sprinkle bug confetti onto the glue
  3. Read Charlotte’s Web together and watch the movie

Illustrated Avatar Jess

Bugs – ‘Smoosh Art’ Butterflies


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Whenever we see butterflies outside, Madeline always excitedly points them out. We also love to visit the butterfly garden at the Boston Museum of Science, so I wanted to incorporate these fascinating insects by doing a process oriented craft that also teaches symmetry.

Craft/Activity/Snack: Smoosh Paint Butterfly
Objective: To learn about symmetry by creating a butterfly using a smoosh painting technique
Skills Utilized: Following directions, pouring, color recognition, critical thinking
Suggested Reading: Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horacek
Materials:  any color paint (we stuck to 3 for each butterfly), any color paper (for the background), small cups that your child can easily hold, black paper cut into butterfly body/antennae

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Before jumping into our project, we did some research on butterflies. We studied this chart and learned the parts of a butterfly. We also learned what symmetry (for my daughter and her almost-2-years-old friend, I just explained and showed them that it means they look exactly the same!) means and that butterflies wings are almost always symmetrical (I learned that it is because cells on both wings have the same genetic code!)

To start, I put the paint into the cups and told Maddy to pour the paint on this half of the paper. She followed these instructions very well! Her little friend did, too. I was impressed by how methodical they both were.

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Once your little one is pleased with the location and amount of paint on their paper, tell them to carefully fold their paper in half (I had pre-folded their paper prior to painting).

Now get smoothing! I explained to smoosh and pat down on the paper.

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Can you tell she was super excited with the results?!


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Maddy loved it so much she decided her butterfly needed some extra paint. She poured more on and refolded the paper. The end results are quite beautiful! I glued the body on the center to complete the butterfly look.

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Maddys butterfly


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Her friends butterfly

Ways to Expand Upon this Activity: 

  1. Go to a butterfly garden!
  2. Use squeeze bottles for the paint instead of small cups.
  3.  Plant lavender, oregano, marigolds or other plants that attract butterflies.

    Illustrated Avatar Amanda

Bugs – Lightning Bug Fingerprint Painting

One of the true signs that summer is in full-swing are the resurgence of lightning bugs throughout the neighborhood. Whether you’re in the *firefly* or *lightning bug* camp, I have yet to find a single person who isn’t mesmerized by the soft twinkle. While we’re of the catch-and-release type, this project gives us a little piece of summer year-round.

LightningBugs or Fireflies in a jar

Every night after his baby sister is fast asleep, Jasper and I take a walk to wind down and spend some one-on-one time together. Let it be known, he has an immense fear of bugs; however, the first time this year that he caught a glimpse of the twinkling in his friend’s front yard his immediate response was, “Look mama! So pretty.” As it was a great opportunity for me to show him that bugs are friends, not foes, I immediately caught a lightning bug to present him. He still has no interest in touching them but every evening he begs me to catch one.

This project gives him a bug free way to enjoy the fireflies everyday.

Craft/Activity/Snack: Firefly / Lightning Bug Fingerprint Painting
Objective: To finger paint a scene of caught lightning bugs
Skills Utilized: Nature discovery, fine motor skills, pincer grasp, colors, patience
Suggested Reading: Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman
Materials: Black paper (nighttime), light blue paper cut into a jar shape, gray paper rectangle (lid), yellow washable paint, black washable paint, palette, glue stick, and q-tip

lightning bug materials

Step 1: Allow your child to glue the blue jar onto the black paper in whatever way they prefer. Jasper’s was a little crooked while my nephew took a very straight approach.

lightning bugs step 1

Step 2: Fingerpainting! My instructions at this point were simply *one finger! dot dot!* and the boys did exactly that.Lightning bugs step 2

Step 3: Did you see patience in the skills utilized section above? This is Part 1 of where that comes in. The yellow paint needs to dry before moving on to step 4. At this point, I moved the paintings to the other side of the table and we read Sam and the Firefly.lightning bugs step 3

Step 4: Once the yellow paint was mostly dry (about 15 minutes), give your child a small amount of black paint and a cotton swab. This time, encourage them to place a black dot on each of their yellow spots.lightning bugs step 4

Step 5: Uh-oh. More patience required here! Let the black paint dry a little so it doesn’t smudge then let your child glue their lid onto the jar. Again, my nephew was very careful to ensure his jar was shut tight whereas Jasper went with a haphazardly unscrewed lid.Lightening Bugs Step 5

Step 6: Once the paint is dry enough, use a pen or marker to draw open circles connected to the black dots your child painted. This creates the bioluminescent segment of the lightning bug’s body. You can also take this as an opportunity to add some details to the lid and jar.Lightning Bugs Step 6

At this point, your jars are complete! Each of the boys were so proud of their final piece and even a kid who despises bugs with his entire being was super excited to show his artwork to his papa at the end of the day.

Firefly Fingerprint Painting

Extension activities: 

  1. Catch actual lightning bugs but be sure to release them when you’re all done
  2. Decorate a real bug jar
  3. Hide glowing rocks for your child to find (**choking hazard for small children!
  4. Take turns making up stories about fireflies

Illustrated Avatar Jess

The Beach: Rainbow Fish

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There are so many amazing creatures in the sea! Your child will sharpen their fine motor skills and color recognition while creating this whimsical fish inspired by a beloved children’s book.

Craft/Activity/Snack: Tissue Paper Rainbow Fish craft
Objective: Create a colorful fish using tissue paper
Skills Utilized: color recognition, fine motor skills, gluing
Suggested Reading: The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Materials: glue, construction paper (any color), colorful tissue paper (I found these squares at the Dollar Tree), marker to draw your fish shape (or print a template found online), scissors. Optional: googly eyes/paper eyes

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First, draw or use a simple fish shape template on the paper your child chooses. Maddy and her friend picked out pink and blue. Cut out of the fish shape. An older child can cut the shape out themselves (no worries if it isn’t perfect!)

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Next, spread the glue on the fish and let your child place the tissue paper anywhere they’d like! We named the colors while we worked and practiced sharing the paper too (just like the rainbow fish shares his scales!). We also had fun tossing some of the tissue paper on the floor 😉

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They spent quite a while on this project so I did need to reapply glue every so often.

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You can leave these as is or add an eye and a smile to add some extra (albeit unrealistic) cuteness.

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Ways to Expand upon this Activity: 

  1. Put your fish on popsicle sticks and put on a puppet show!
  2. Check out this simple cartoon/reading of The Rainbow Fish
  3. Have a dance party to “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid!

Illustrated Avatar Amanda

The Beach: Strawberry Sea Creature Snacks

Crafting takes a lot out of us – so we usually need a good healthy snack to hit the spot after a big playdate. There are so many adorable beachy snack ideas on Pinterest (beach bum teddy grahams! Gone fishin’ snack mix! Gummy shark jell-o cups!) so it was easy to feel inspired. These Strawberry Sea Creature Bagel Bites with a blue cream cheese ocean were the perfect result!

Strawberry Sea Creature Snacks

It was a toss up between calling this a crab or an octopus… I was very happy with the little octopus babies until Jasper saw his and immediately said “ooooh crabby! pinch pinch!” so we’ll just call them sea creatures for now :-p

Strawberry Octopus on Blueberry Cream Cheese Bagel

Craft/Activity/Snack: Strawberry Sea Creature Bagel Bites with Blueberry Cream Cheese
Objective: Healthy, filling snack to tempt little ones’ imaginations and their taste buds
Skills Utilized: N/A
Suggested Reading: Eric Carle’s Animals Animals
Ingredients: (for 2 bagel bites)

1 mini bagel
2 tablespoons of softened cream cheese
small handful of blueberries
4 strawberries (2 small, 2 large)
food coloring
4 candy eyes or chocolate chips

Strawberry Sea Creature Ingredients

First, start by mashing ripe blueberries. To intensify the flavor you can use frozen/thawed blueberries or cooked blueberries. Add the mashed blueberries to the cream cheese with some food coloring. To get the color we achieved, it was 2 drops of blue with 1 drop of green. (Without food coloring, the cream cheese mixture will be a purplish-pink color). Combine until relatively smooth. If your blueberries are too tart, you may need to add a teaspoon of confectioners sugar to cut through it. 

Sea Creature Blueberry Cream Cheese Collage

Next, core the strawberries. Put the two smaller strawberries aside. Cut the larger 2 strawberries into 8 pieces. Attach eyes to the smaller strawberries using a bit of the cream cheese mixture on the reverse side.

Strawberry Sea Creature Process COllage 2

Smear a dollop of the cream cheese mixture onto each bagel half. Place the strawberry octopus head into the center and arrange the ‘tentacles’ around it.

Sea Creature process Collage

And just like that, you’ll have two little octopus friends…. or crabs if you so choose :-p

Strawberry sea creature snack

Jasper was so smitten with his “crabby” and could barely stop smiling enough to talk. When he did, he kept saying, “Japper try one? Mama? Japper try one, now!” One for Jasper and one for mama. Luckily too because it was really good. Deconstructed, it’d be a great breakfast too! Because who has time to be creating octopuses before the coffee has been brewed anyway?!?

Strawberry Sea Creature getting the eyes of approval

Just be prepared for some blue faces and strawberry-stained shirts if your littles are anything like mine.

Enjoying his strawberry sea creature snack bagel bite

Extension activities:

  1. Encourage your child to draw an octopus… remember, 8 tentacles!
  2. Discuss the sea habitat and what other animals may be found living near an octopus
  3. Visit an orchard to pick fresh blueberries and strawberries like we did at Weaver’s Orchard

Strawberry Sea Creature Bagel Bites with Blueberry Cream Cheese

Illustrated Avatar Jess

The Beach: Lobster Hand/Footprint Art

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It isn’t summer at the beach without some sweet lobster! Make this simple and adorable “lobstah” using your little ones foot and hands – an instant keepsake!

Craft/Activity/Snack: Hand/footprint lobster
Objective: Make a lobster using your hcilds foot and handprints
Skills Utilized: Patience, creative thinking
Suggested Reading: Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster by Claire Lordon
Materials: red paint, paintbrushes, paper, wipes, googly eyes (or make paper eyes like we did!), glue

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Start painting those little hands! Do one at a time and have a wipe ready.

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My best advice is to use a fair amount of paint, but not so much that it is a thick layer. Carefully guide your childs hand/foot down and help press it. Carefully pull up their hand or foot while holding the paper down yourself. Repeat process with both hands and foot in these positions:

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Next, use a thinner brush to connect the hands for the claws, add two small lines at the top to attach the eyes to, and add some lines on the side for the legs

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Glue on the eyes and you have got a cute little project to display all summer long!

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Ways to Expand Upon this Activity:

  1. Let your child use the leftover paint on their hands and feet on a different paper to make a process based piece of art!
  2. Read books about lobster fishing. Watch videos online about lobsters!
  3. Research more about lobsters themselves. They are fascinating little creatures!
  4. Depending on where you live, go to a lobster pound or your local super market and see some lobsters in person!

    Illustrated Avatar Amanda

The Beach: Paint Chip Beach Scene

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Living in New England, we are spoiled to be in close distance of many lovely beaches. Maddy loves going to see the “watah”, playing in the sand and of course, collecting shells. For this project, you will create a “birds eye view” style beach scene that is also an interactive activity!

Maddy enjoying the beach this weekend in Maine

Craft/Activity/Snack: Paint Chip Beach
Objective: Use shades of blue and tan paint chips to create an interactive beach scene
Skills Utilized: Fine motor skills, gluing, color recognition, sensory exploration
Suggested Reading: Goodnight Beach by Adam Gamble
Materials: paper, glue, scissors, paint chips in shades of blue and tan, seashells  (if you don’t have any you have collected yourself, you can buy a bag at the Dollar Tree or craft store!)

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First, divide the paper by drawing a line down the middle.  I made my sand side slightly smaller so we could have lots of those pretty shades of blue on the ocean side.

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Cut the paint chips however you’d like! I decided to cut off the white parts and color names and ended up with rectangle and squares.

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Get gluing! Maddy loves using gluestick so I instructed her to only put glue on the right side (as you can see, a little snuck onto the other side).

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While your child is gluing the pieces down, talk about how some of the shades vary from light to dark, etc.

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Repeat this process with the blue paint chips on the “ocean” side”.

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The end result:

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Next, we played with our beach by adding shells. We sorted them by shapes, sizes and Maddy even made a little stacking game with some of them! We also discussed the different colors and textures.

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Ways to Expand Upon this Activity:

  1. Listen to ocean sounds while you work on your beach!
  2. Add ocean themed stickers to your beach-fish, seaweed, boats, etc.
  3. Use your seashells to practice your counting skills.

    Illustrated Avatar Amanda

The Beach: Sandpaper Sand Castles

Two-thirds of our beach bag is taken up by sand toys and tools… and I don’t think we are alone in that. Jasper is obsessed with digging and building in the sand – then knocking down and rebuilding haha. Our newest beach theme project gives a similar satisfaction, but with no mess and lots of options: Sandpaper Sand Castles.

Sandpaper Castle

Continue reading “The Beach: Sandpaper Sand Castles”

The Beach: Watercolor Jellyfish Paintings

On the east coast, it’s almost impossible to visit a beach and *not* come across a jellyfish. Unlike what we tend to find along the shoreline, I wanted to capture the beauty of a jellyfish. I think we succeeded because this is probably my favorite painting to date. This project is an interesting one for different ages because it introduced a new medium to the kids (watercolor!) and an unexpected painting method (a straw?!). The result is a lovely masterpiece that you and your little one will be proud to display.

Watercolor Jellyfish Painting

Craft/Activity/Snack: Watercolor Jellyfish Painting
Objective: Create a jellyfish using watercolor paints and a straw
Skills Utilized: blowing, lip extension, mouth sensory awareness
Suggested Reading: The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
Materials: watercolor paints, water, paintbrush, watercolor paper or white construction paper, and a straw

Watercolor Jellyfish Finished Painting

To start, you will need to place half circles of watered down watercolor paints onto the paper. These should be about the size of a half dollar or smaller. Older children can paint these themselves – instruct them to make a “smile” or “half moon”. The flat edge should be facing away from you and your child, with the rounded edge near the top of the paper.

Watercolor Jellyfish Step 1

Place a straw on the page and BLOW! The jellyfish shape will immediately take form.

Watercolor Jellyfish Step 2

Jasper loved this! I told him to practice blowing out a candle (one of his favorite, and most unsafe, pastimes… this kid can’t wait until his third birthday!)

Watercolor Jellyfish - Step 2 - Jasper blowing

Flip it over and -VOILA- jellyfish!

Watercolor Jellyfish Step 3

Once they dried, I used a fine tip sharpie to draw a jellyfish body around the top portion. Just look at these! Are they stunning or what?! The boys did such a great job!

Watercolor Jellyfish finished paintings

I’m seriously in awe of how neat these look. Watercolors are the perfect medium because you can let them dry and paint layers upon layers of jellyfish just like in real life.

Watercolor Jellyfish Collage

Extension activities:

  1. Visit a jellyfish exhibit at your local aquarium – we LOVE the jellyfish at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden
  2. Draw other fish, coral, and seaweed onto the painting to create a full underwater scene
  3. Watch Finding Nemo and look out for the jellyfish
  4. Discuss jellyfish and their stings

Illustrated Avatar Jess