Montessori-Inspired Unit on Insects

This post stemmed from seeing how the children loved the ladybugs in our home and wanted to know where they came from. Dylan started picking up bugs with his bare hands and setting them out on the windowsill. We also caught a few and put them in jars. That up-close and personal experience will breed a respect for the animals in the environment.


Months ago, I did a Land Air Water (LAW) unit to provide a big picture of earthbound, waterbound and airborne animals, and have been zooming into specific subcategories whenever my children show interest. Themes, or unit studies, would not be offered in a Montessori Children’s House as it goes against the principle of giving them freedom of choice. There might be themed seasonal works but there is no obligation to do these, unlike in a traditional school setting which may set a theme which all children have to participate in at the same time. There is no class where all thirty children will have the exact same interest at the same time. However, I only have two children, so I do alot of unit studies because I can follow the children’s unique fixations, without replicating the classroom material that Dylan works with in his Montessori school.

1. Bugs or birds sorting tray

To link this unit back to that broad overview, I started with sorting out the bugs from the non-bugs (in this case birds), using tongs.

I love how you can really set the child up for success here, simply by varying the non-bugs from the ridiculous and impossible-to-get-wrong, such as kitchen utensils, or sea creatures. Separating the birds from the bugs came easily for Emmy, so I may up the challenge by having a bug-only sorting tray for six legs/ eight legs (two-legged/ four-legged farm variant with playdough here).

 (See our birds unit here)

2. Insects by day

Use a magnifying glass to look at insects encased within resin blocks.



If you have an insect compendium, you could turn it into a picture to object (resin block) matching activity. These are in Mandarin Chinese.


3. Insects by night 

Make a DIY overhead projector (OHP) using a cardboard box (actually the DIY easel featured here), a flashlight and some scotchtape on which the children could adhere the resin blocks.


4. Ladybug book

We then homed in on Emmy’s current obsession: ladybugs! I found this lovely book that details the ladybug’s life cycle accurately but in only a sentence per page so it’s short enough for a toddler to sit through. This is Emmy’s current favourite book, look how dog-eared it has become after just a month!

Her favourite page, with just the right little detail (the picture of the child blowing the lady away) to captivate her.



5. Paper plate ladybug life cycle

Most people would color in the shape of the animal when making such puzzles. However, I filled the background in with a Sharpie instead of filling the animal’s shape in. The dark background receding makes it easier for the child to identify where to place the object/ puzzle piece. I chose a paper plate because the shape emphasised the cyclical nature of life, as opposed to going from left to right in a linear fashion. Check out my other silhouette cards here.

6. Parts of a Ladybug three-part cards 

It is easy enough to make my own three-part cards (tutorial here) by getting photos off Google Images, but impossible for me to paint them myself. I got these illustrated Parts of a Ladybug cards from The Montessori Company. (You’ll usually find me stalking their free downloads section too.)

On each card, only the specific part of the ladybug’s anatomy is coloured, while the rest is monochrome. Here’s Emmy saying “scared” while Dylan points at the card with the ladybug’s head. Little children do not need fantasy when the wonders of the natural world are there to captivate them.

And some lined cards, for children to create their own booklets, or circle parts of the anatomy and write the term down. I’ve not seen this before in the Children’s House (my visit to one here), but I imagine it would be useful for homeschooling older children who can write.

7. Making ladybugs

The precise anatomical terms in the Parts of a Ladybug cards inspired a patterning activity with red tangrams and wooden pegs on a black tray, echoing the colors of the ladybug. Can you see the ladybug’s head, pronotum and elytra? 

I’m learning lots from my AMI course on artbooks and parenting so do check out our Facebook page!

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