If you have very young children, you might want to start with teaching them the parts common to most insects: head, thorax, abdomen, wings, antennae, compound and simple eyes, exoskeleton (hard outer skeleton), and six jointed legs. These six legs distinguish insects from bugs such as eight-legged arachnids. Also see our Insect Investigations Science Lesson to get more ideas for younger children.
Have your children label the different parts of an insect, using a picture from a magazine, the internet, or one that they have drawn themselves.
For slightly older children (3rd grade and up), it might be beneficial to learn some of the basic characteristics of the most common insect orders. Butterflies and moths are members of the order Lepidoptera, because of their scaly wings. Dragonflies are members of the ‘toothed’ order Odonata. Beetles are members of Coleoptera (‘sheath wing’); and bees and ants, because of their membranous wings, are members of order Hymenoptera. Memorizing each order name is not as important as really understanding the concept that each insect has distinguishing characteristics that put it in a specific order!
For more insect study ideas, visit our Making an Insect Collection Science Project.