In some ways, ants are a lot like humans. That is, they tend to have a particular place they’re going, and they can keep track of their destination. They know what turns to take, they can remember where to walk and where to avoid, and they always find their way back home. Observing ant behavior is a fun and easy way for kids to learn about how animals (and especially insects) act. This experiment also provides a safe way for kids to involve themselves in the activity and see if they can influence the ants’ behavior.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find some ants and determine their path. Chances are, they’ll be moving back and forth between their anthill and some kind of food source. In warm weather, finding ants should not prove too difficult! Take your child to where the ants are and simply watch them for a while.
Ask your child where the ants are coming from, where they’re headed, and what they seem to be doing. Make notice of how they seem to know and remember their path so well!
Next, set your ant bait nearby. Watch what they do. More likely than not, one ant will go investigate it, report back to the others, and then lead more of them to where the bait is set! Have your child observe the ants’ behavior carefully; then, set the obstacle in the way. Watch how the ants react, and see how long it takes them to find a new path.
After a while, remove the obstruction and then see what happens! Talk with your child about the ants’ behavior, and note how magnificently they remember their routes and find new paths when they are obstructed.
Use the observation journal to keep notes about what's happening along the way.
- Of course, you’ll need to find some ants!
- Ant Bait (the jar of a lid with some honey or sugar water will do fine)
- Obstruction (a building block, small book, small piece of wood)
- Observation Journal
Your child will likely be quite amazed at the behavior of these ants—and will perhaps become more interested in observing and studying animal behavior in general!