Introducing nature to toddlers can seem challenging, but doesn’t have to be. Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and exploratory, and parents and caregivers should take advantage of this special time to introduce the child to the natural world.
When planning activities with toddlers, parents should follow the time-tested “KISS” rule, keeping it short and simple. The following are some short and simple games and learning activities about earthworms that toddlers will enjoy, while they are learning and working to create a lasting relationship with nature.
Wiggly, Wiggly Worms
While the thought of holding a worm may not appeal to most adults, toddlers love the tickly feeling that a squirming worm will bring. Adults should collect a few worms beforehand and introduce the worms to the children. Gently place the worm in the child’s hand – toddlers have a tendency to pinch or squeeze the worm. Let the child hold the worm for a few seconds, and make sure to wash the child’s hands when finished.
Worm Body Parts, Child Body Parts
Earthworms have no ears, nose, or eyes. While toddlers might not be ready to understand how something might not have these parts, they certainly enjoying pointing to their own. Ask children to point to their own ears, nose, and eyes. Then show them the worm and ask them to find the worm's parts. When they can’t find them, tell them that worms are a very different type of animal that do not have ears, nose, or eyes like they do. Scientists have shown that worms actually do have the ability to smell, but toddlers will enjoy “seeing” and “hearing” like an earthworm.
“Hear” Like an Earthworm
Worms rely on vibrations to “hear.” This phenomenon is quite easy to demonstrate to toddlers. Have the child stand on the ground while an adult jumps close by. The child should be able to feel the jump of the adult. This activity works best on certain types of ground or flooring. Wooden decks provide the easiest surface to feel vibrations.
Without eyes, worms see using a sense of touch. Children can experience this through a simple sensory game. Adults can gather basic natural items, such as small twigs, rocks, and pinecones, and keep them in separate bags. (When collecting items, make certain there are no sharp edges.) Invite the children to reach in each bag without peeking, and feel for the item, therefore “seeing” like a worm. Have the children try to guess what the item is after experiencing it using only the sense of touch.
Earthworms are very safe to handle. They do not bite, and besides a little wiggling, are easy to hold. Toddlers will benefit from these simple and short activities, both in enjoyment and education.
To create a wormery for these new wiggly friends, see my Suite101 article, the "Pop Bottle Wormery Science Craft"
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- Karrie McAllister writes and mothers from Small Town, Ohio, where she also doubles as the local preschool music teacher and is working on setting the world record for most coffee consumed in one motherhood. Her column has appeared on numerous Web sites and newspapers, and she blogs about living inside and out in a world of children. Contact her at KarrieMcAllister [at] aol.com