Ant Farms: A Great Learning Toy For Kids
Ant farms are timeless projects for kids that can provide a source of amusement and education during the break from school.
Bring some bugs inside this summer. Get an ant farm.
Are you looking for cool science projects for kids to work on over the summer break? Have you thought about getting an ant farm?
Caring for an ant farm is a cool experiment that dates back decades. It’s both entertaining and educational for kids. Take a look at how to get your ant farm started, and see what your kids can learn this summer.
First, Buy or Make an Ant Farm
Finding an ant farm online or in a local nature shop is fairly easy, and there is plenty of variety to choose from. Some are more traditional and come with sand, while others are filled with a space-aged clear gel that the ants eat through.
Keep in mind that your ant farm may come with an order form for ants, rather than the ants themselves. It can take up to six weeks for the ants to arrive, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
If you decide to get crafty, building your own farm is a cool experiment that you and the kids can enjoy together. A quick search on Google or YouTube will give you plenty of results.
Next, Get Your Ant Colony Started
Going the DIY route means you’re going to have to attract wild ants. Just be careful you’re not gathering fire ants, and be sure kids are properly supervised if they're taking part in the ant hunt.
Whether you build your own farm or order one, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a queen. There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to shipping ants. In fact, it’s illegal to ship queen ants across state lines. If you’re set on finding a queen so your kids can observe the life cycle of ants, your best bet is collecting your colony in the wild.
Even if you do manage to find a queen, your colony will probably only survive for three months in captivity. This can be upsetting to young children, so you may want to gently prepare them for the end of the experiment.
What Will Ants Teach My Kids?
Ants are fascinating little bugs. They’re also great teachers who cover subjects that range from insect communication to architecture.
When you first put your ants in the farm, they’re going to have to make a new system of tunnels. This is easily one of the best parts of these cool science projects for kids. To make it more fun, take pictures on a daily basis so you can compare their progress.
Another cool experiment is to have your kids keep a journal of what they see happening in their ant farm. If you’re lucky enough to have found a queen, point out which one she is the and let kids observe how she interacts with the rest of the colony.
Or you can have them monitor the temperature of the room where you keep your ant farm. Your colony will do best when temps are kept between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Have the kids take note of how the ants react when the temperature rises or falls beyond these levels.
You can also ask your kids to pay close attention to how the worker ants (this will be the vast majority of the group) communicate with each other. Do they warn other workers that a dead end is approaching as they travel through their tunnels? Are there signals they use to tell each other where food is?
The possibilities are limitless.
Taking Care of Your Ant Farm
While ant farms are cool science experiments, they also teach your kids about responsibility. To make sure the ants live as long as possible, they have to be cared for properly.
What should you feed ants?
- Small pieces of fruit
- Ant food provided by DIY kits
First, your kids have to know what to feed the ants. If you bought a kit, check the feeding instructions. Some kits even come with food.
If you built a DIY farm, you’ll be happy to know that ants will eat almost anything. Have your kids give them small pieces of fruits, vegetables or bread every few days. If the colony eats all the food at once, you can give them scraps a bit more often. You can also make observing their eating habits another cool experiment for your kids.
Your ants may not always eat all of the food you give them. In this case, clean out uneaten bits before they get moldy.
Like all living creatures, ants need water to survive. Your kids can keep the colony hydrated with a few drops of water on a pea-sized piece of sponge. And if you have one of the new gel ant farms, you don’t need to feed or water your ants at all. They simply eat the gel.
How to Handle Ant Farms
Outside of regular feeding, kids will also learn how to handle the ant farms. Relocating the farm requires being gentle, as a tumble or some shaking can destroy your ants’ habitat.
Ant farms are timeless projects for kids that can provide a source of amusement and education during the break from school. And if you’re looking for another cool experiment the family can enjoy this summer, check out our instructions for making butterfly feeders.