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 jarEvery 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


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