Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spiders, Spiders, Spiders

Currently I am teaching about spiders in my preschool classroom (ages 3-5). I thought I'd compile my spider ideas into one blog post so I could reference it in the future. Keep in mind, we didn't do all these ideas....if we had we'd be learing about spiders for a full month or more!

Lucky for me I have a great test audience at home - my 6 year old son and 2.5 year old daughter! The photos are my kiddos testing out the projects for preschool!

Weaving Webs:
1. Paper plate with whole punches along the edge. Tie a string onto one hole. At the other end of the string attach a small piece of pipe cleaner, this will be used to weave the web and when finished attach a spider ring to the pipe cleaner. This is great for fine motor skills. For younger children make sure the string isn't too long or it becomes frustrating for them to weave.
My preschoolers had a lot of fun with this project and they were extremely excited to take it home to play with. Next time I'd like to have some flies to attach as well.

2. Foam trays with small notches cut out of can be used for weaving webs as well.
3. Glue three tongue depressors or popsicle sticks together to form a star. Attach a string to one and weave the web by looping around stick, pulling straight to the next, looping, pulling straight, and continue until finished. This could also be done by using small branches or sticks from nature!
4. For older children you could teach them how to make a dream catcher. (This site has a good tutorial - ) Comparing a real spider web to your homemade dream catcher would be interesting.

Spider Handprints:
1. Spread paint evenly over the fingertips of one hand (not the thumb) and upper portion of the palm. Press onto a piece of paper. Recoat the area and turn the paper so the second set of prints form a spider's body and other four legs.
{While you have their hand covered in brown or black paint, consider making an extra print of their entire hand including the thumb to make it into a rake or extend the paint up onto their forearm to make a nice tree. These both would tie in nicely to a fall theme! And you get more mileage out of the paint.}
2. Trace handprints (as above) onto craft foam. Cut out and add a magnet. Let the child decorate a spider face. Add the date for a keepsake craft. We made these several years ago and it's fun to pull them out of the fall decorations each year to see how their hands have grown!

Web Painting:
1. Marble Rolling Webs - cut a piece of black paper and lay it into a shoe box lid or cardboard tray. Add a small amount of white paint and a marble. Allow the child to rotate the tray creating lines of paint. {Add either salt or glitter to the paint so that it glimmers when it dries.}
2. Frisbee Marble Rolling - same idea as above except you cut the paper in the shape of circle and use a frisbee instead of the tray.
3. Tire paintings - take a toy car or truck. Roll the wheels through a small amount of white paint. Then have the child push the car around on black construction paper. To make it look more like a web, show how to paint from one edge of the paper to the other. This project is best if first done on small paper, such as a half sheet of construction paper. Once the child gets the idea, a large paper or even posterboard makes a nice display!
4. White glue drizzled onto black paper makes a fun web. Be sure that children have the ability to squeeze the bottle and move around the paper to create the effect that you want. Otherwise, a large puddle of glue is what you will end up with.

Sensory Bin Ideas:
1. Spider Not Spider - After explaining the difference between spiders and insects, have them go on a spider hunt in this bin. I used a collection of plastic bugs, foam spiders, and base of shredded green paper & shredded brown wallpaper. Having just one type of spiders made it easy to distingush spiders made this an independent activity for the younger kids. The older kids had fun sorting and name the other insects as well!
2. Spiders & "Black Bean" Flies - The spiders were plastic rings from the Dollar Store. I planned on cutting the ring off but it seemed too sharp for my 2 year old to play with, so I left the rings on. For the flies, I added three bags of dried black beans. I also planned on adding dried spaghetti as webs, but my children were playing so nicely with this bin that I never added it. This bin was a big hit with the preschool kids as well!

3. Water Table with Spiders - as simple as putting water and plastic spiders into a bin. My children at home loved it. At preschool we added a few mesh scoops for kids to rescue the floating spiders!
4. Cooked and cooled spaghetti - let children play with a small amount in a bowl. Once their interest wanes, suggest dipping a piece of spaghetti in white paint and dragging it across construction paper to create another type of web.
5. Hiding Spiders - take artificial spider webbing, which is found at Halloween with the decorations, and add it to a tray. Add a collection of plastic spiders, spider rings, and flies (or other insects). As the kids play in the bin the spiders and fly get tangled in the web. It's quite a job to find all the hidden critters and even harder to remove them once they are embedded in the web.

6. Dramatic Spider Web Play Box - to make this I wove a yarn web by attaching binder clips to the top lip of an oversized cardboard tray. I added one spider and one oversized fly and showed the children how to play "Spider & Fly" with a friend. It was great fun to hear the stories they told as played! Of course the web was slowly deconstructed but still lots of fun & learning was happening.

Spider Art:
1. The classic paper spiders with accordian legs are a not to be missed project. If you are making these with a large number of kids, it is easiest if you prefold sheets of construction paper into a fan and then cut the legs the desired width.
2. Headbands - make a headband from posterboard or painted cereal box. Attach eight accordian folded legs.
3. Number 8 - cut out a number eight and explain that spiders have 2 body parts (abdomen, cephalothorax). Glue eight legs onto the abdomen, suggesting that 4 go on one side and 4 on the other.
4. Cut out a spider body and legs. Allow the children to build their own spiders using the pieces. Felt or craft foam make this fun, but construction paper or cardstock would work as well. Help children count the legs. Explain that some spiders have as many as 8 eyes. By not gluing or attaching these pieces children can build it over and over again, almost like a homemade spider puzzle.

5. Egg Carton Spiders - cut egg cartons into sections with 2 egg cups. These two cups represent the spider's two body parts. Use cardboard egg cartons since they are easier to paint or decorate with markers. Add pipe cleaner or paper legs, googly eyes, and any other details you might like.
6. Glove/ sock puppet - I was brainstorming a fun puppet and thought that taking a pair of black gloves, stuffing the fingers, sewing them onto a black sock and then embellishing it would make a great little puppet. I haven't gotten past the brainstorming phase, but if I ever do...I'll come back and add a photo to this post!
7. Water Spout and Spider Craft - perfect for retelling the Itsy Bitsy Spider!

Spider Inspired Snacks:
After working with three year olds, I have decided there are less messier snacks than cupcakes! So I'm now on a hunt for more creative themed snacks that use healthy foods.
1. Plum spiders: Take a plum and add 8 chow mein noodles for legs.
2. Raisins make perfect 'flies' and can be added easily to any other snack. "Oh look, a fly landed on your cheese stick!" "How many flies are in your yogurt?"
3. Spider do not ingest their prey, instead they drink it. To illustrate the point, I made a bunch of laminated fly clip art. Then I punched a whole into it and inserted a straw. We tried drinking 'fly juice' from our straws. The drink could be anything but I chose lemonade in clear cups. I think the color and tart flavor added to the experience.

4. Gushers - we practice eating flies by putting one 'Gusher' fruit snack into our mouths. We gently bit into them and sucked the juice out. Talk about exciting!!!
5. Curds and Whey - explaining to kids what this is helpful, but making real curds and whey is even more fun. (add link) Follow this with a tastier version by serving cottage cheese and some sort of fruit. Be sure to get out your tuffet too so you can act out Miss Muffet! Try hanging one of your homemade spiders for a full retelling of the tale!

Science Activities:
1. Having pictures and posters of a variety of spiders makes learning characteristics even more fun
2. Catching a live spider to observe is great too. Just be sure to release it after a few hours.
3. Going on a nature walk and looking for spiders and webs is lots of fun. If you take a sock filled with cornstarch, you can make the web more visible by lightly sprinkling it. This also makes it more fun to photograph! Explain the importance of not disturbing the webs. Taking a photograph is a much better way of capturing the web.
4. Spider Food - Looking at bugs is fun for kids of all ages. Whenever we find a dead bug we put it into a medicine jar and add it to our 'dead bug collection'. I brought out my collection to share at Nature Preschool and the kids were VERY impressed.
5. Yarn Webs - Form a circle with a few friends and take turns throwing a ball of yarn to each other. Talk about the characteristics of webs.
6. We found a web full of tiny baby spiders. My husband taught me this great trick. If you get close to the web and blow quickly on it, the baby spiders quickly disperse. My children were delighted watching how many baby spiders were there and could not believe how fast they moved.
7. If you have access to a spider plant with lots of babies, try planting them. Your child will have fun watching their very own spider plant grow. Add a popsicle stick with a pretend spider attached to the pot so they will remember the name of their plant.
8. How do spiders know when a fly is on their web? Though they have eyes, spiders primarily use their sense of touch. We played a game using this homemade mat (table cloth and painter's tape) to practice finding the fly. After gently shaking the mat the child who's turn it was had to slowly feel around for the fly. Of course at home my sweet girl thought it was much more fun to dance and sing "Ring around the Rosie"!

Nursery Rhymes & Songs:
1. Little Miss Muffet
2. Spider On the Floor
3. Itsy Bitsy Spider

Books for Read Alouds:
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Spiders by Gail Gibbons
The Big Bug Search by Ian Jackson (not exclusively spiders but lots of fun)
Are You a Spider? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
Spider on the Floor (Raffi Songs to Read) ISBN 0-517-88553-0
Spinning Spiders by Melvin Berger

Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham - Copyright 1967 -- This is a wonderful picture book to share with children to teach the important role spiders play. I found my used copy on Amazon and my children were amazed to learn that 'this book was made before Mommy was even born'.

Aaaarrgghh Spider! by Lydia Monks -- I was disappointed with this book. The review made me think that it would be good for teaching children about being kind to spiders. However the flushing the spider down the toilet, walking it on a leash, and having a house overrun by spiders made me feel like this book was not a good read aloud for teaching about being kind to spiders!

Other spider resources on the web:

Eric Carle's Very Busy Spider page -

One of my favorite websites -

Another favorite website. Spiders are just a small part of her bug theme -

DLTK is my 'go to' place for age appropriate crafts! This link takes you to all their Miss Muffet related ideas!

S is for Spider - coloring page:

Lots of great ideas at this site. I like the Itsy Bitsy Paint Stick Flip and Rhyme idea, and the Spider Math Mats too!

Lots of great ideas here -

Even more fun ideas here -

A fun gross motor activity that requires just painters tape and few pretend spiders -

Indoor spider web game. I love this idea but I would NOT teach my child to 'kill the spider' as she did.

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