Insect keeping young girl looking at a butterfly in a jar on her windowsill.

Keeping Jar Pets – Habitat Study

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 Bugs for Temporary 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.
  • An insect to observe
  • Habitat material – dirt, plants and stones from near where you found your creature will make them feel most at home.

Our latest bugs 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 mouth jar and a piece of plastic with holes poked in it for a lid.

The 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.