Gift Guide: Birthday Bugs and Butterflies for a 5-Year-Old


Growing butterflies from larvae is a fun, summery experiment for younger and older children, boys and girls alike!

We received a Gift Guide request for a birthday idea for a child turning five –

Can you recommend a gift for my nephew who is turning 5 this month? Thanks!!

Yes! This post is inspired by the lightning bugs we’ve been watching in the evenings as of late – and memories of childhood summers catching them in mason jars. Five years old is a great time for early science exposure (one of our favorite topics, as you know). Catching and studying summer bugs can be a delightful field experiment for boys and girls alike. Let’s talk about all the different ways this can be turned into a fun birthday gift.

As we just alluded, simply catching the interesting bugs that come with summer weather (lightning bugs, for example) can be entertaining and educational. We spent many summer nights watching and catching lightning bugs, as well as some grueling summer afternoons trying to catch crickets for our childhood leopard geckos. Bugs, from icky to beautiful, are plentiful and easy to catch in the summer. And – most young children will happily do this. To that end, I recommend a net, jar or other container, some thing to magnify bugs, a sketchbook, and an encyclopedia. This kit has the catching and examining covered, in pretty gender-fair packaging.

I recommend adding a sketchbook/pencils and child-appropriate bug book and then set your explorer loose. By catching bugs, drawing them, and reading about them, kids learn a lot about the role of description in the scientific process. (PSA: do steer children away from ticks and mosquitoes, and especially in the Pacific Northwest, dangerous spiders)

But, if you want something a little more structured and requiring a little more patience and care, I highly recommend something like a butterfly kit. You can buy a butterfly habitat, and then when you’re all set up, you send in for some larvae and get those back in the mail. Your child will get to watch the whole butterfly life cycle – and watching a butterfly break from the chrysalis is incredibly satisfying for a child after much watching and waiting. You can order refill butterfly larvae year after year for on-going butterfly fun.

In fact, although butterflies are fairly classic, Insect Lore sells kits to do the same thing with lady bugs as well if those are more up your alley. Again, watching the complete life cycle adds depth to your child’s understanding. Caring for their bugs and the bugs’ environment is also educational.

Somewhere in between catching bugs and tending butterflies/lady bugs falls the ant farm. They require some tending (they can be downright temperamental), and they can be fascinating. I’ve had about as much personal success with ant farms as with sea monkeys, but if you suspect your child might be interested in an ant farm, go for it. Certainly if you have some personal success with ant farms you are already on your way to guiding your child to ant farm success.

If you want to go all-out, I recommend the butterfly kit (or lady bug kit, or ant farm) with a bug book and a sketchbook/pencils. These three pieces will combine 1) opportunity for systematic observation, 2) research (reading!), and 3) data recording (coloring!). All of these recommendations can be found in the Fair Play Amazon storefront. As always, please consider clicking through our links in this or any other post, or using the storefront, as the minimal percentage Amazon pays us helps to defray the costs of maintaining the blog.

Now, get out there and enjoy those summer bugs! And maybe grab some spray for those ticks and mosquitoes…

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3 thoughts on “Gift Guide: Birthday Bugs and Butterflies for a 5-Year-Old

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