Keeping Jar Pets – Habitat Study

Keeping Bugs for Temporary Pets

My 5 year old and 8 year old are very excited about creating habitats lately.  I think we’d have an entire room filled with glassed in creatures if I  let them.  Jar pets are a fun way to observe a little creature for a few days. This is one of the activities that my kids have really enjoyed and I thought I’d expand a bit on what we’ve done with these short term pets.

Keeping Jar Pets - summer nature activity

For Keeping Bugs Short Term You’ll need:

  • A container – wide-mouthed glass jar or tupperware
  • A lid you can poke air holes in.
  • A creature
  • Habitat material – dirt, plants and stones from near where you found your creature will make them feel most at home.

Our latest creatures were roly polies.

The boys found material from our yard to make the roly polies comfortable in their new jar home.

They carefully and lovingly created a habitat for their short term pets.

Keeping Jar Pets - summer nature activity (3)

We used a wide moth jar and a piece of plastic with holes poked in it for a lid.

They boys enjoyed watching, discussing and caring for their “little roly poly friends.”

We looked up roly polies online to learn more about them.

We took out a couple of the bugs and drew them in our notebooks, then I asked what we had learned about the roly polies that the boys wanted to include on their page and they dictated their facts to me so I could include them in the notebook entry.

Questions you can ask:

Where do these creatures live?

What do you think this creature eats?

What do you think eats it?

Do you think this is an adult or a baby? (We learned that a grasshopper in our yard was bright green as a baby, but brown as an adult.)

Keeping Jar Pets - summer nature activity (2)


Where can you identify your jar pets?

We read about our roly polies on Wikipedia after searching for their common name.

I also found the sites and which are filled with information about bugs and may help you identify your jar pet.

Keeping Bugs Tips:

Use common sense when handling any wild creature.

Only keep your jar pets for a short time – let kids know ahead of time to set that expectation.

Keep the jar pets at kids eye level so kids can easily observe the creatures.

For more ways to play this summer – take a look at the Camp Mom Summer Activities Pack

camp mom summer activities pack and planning printables


Fun for More Than One:

Keeping Bugs is a Great Activity for Ages 5-8.  Here’s how to involve children of different ages.

Babies: can enjoy being outside with siblings, look at the jar pet while being securely held by an adult.

Toddlers: can enjoy searching for a jar pet, collect materials for the habitat, enjoy looking at the jar pet – beware of storing the jar within toddler reach otherwise you may wind up with an escaped bug and broken jar.  Toddlers may enjoy playing pretend and storing a plastic bug in a shoebox for “their own” pet.

Older children: can make plans and create a habitat for long term jar pet keeping, help younger kids construct the habitat, write about or draw the jar pet, search out identification and care information about the creature.


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  1. Dana says

    I helped my grandchildren build a tadpole pond with land and logs to go under we feed them fish food and blood worms and some chicken wire over the top when we are not out with them so the birds don’t eat them .the birds cleaned them up once already . now its great we used a old garden box and a tarp to hold the water in .they are starting to get legs they will be able to come and go as they please once bigger! all the kids love this even the adults. Dana

  2. Haley says

    I found an earwig last night and caught him in a cup until I could do more research. I found out they’re not at all as icky as I thought they were! Did know the female earwig actually stays with her eggs, protecting them from predators? She even cares for them for a time after they’ve hatched – not many insects do that!
    I’ve built him a little jar with some mulch and grass and leaves and such. He’s younger, so we will probably keep him until breeding season starts this fall. I’m going to show him to my toddler tomorrow; she may not be able to retain any information about him, but she’ll be learning that it’s fun to watch and learn about creatures like this!

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