How to Prepare Young Children for the Cicadas

It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since the Brood X cicadas last emerged and took over the DMV!  Many adults now might remember the last time they emerged, or if you are new to the area this might be your first brush with these noisy neighbors. Some might enjoy the cicadas but there are plenty who are less than enthused about the upcoming emergence. The sudden onslaught of many large insects can be very strange or unnerving for young children, particularly if they do not already have a comfort with insects and bugs. Here are some tips for how to help your child prepare for and even enjoy this rare occurrence, as well as build positive memories for the next time!  

Describe What Will Happen  

For children who are old enough (around three and up) try talking very simply about what will happen when the cicadas emerge. Try these phrases: “There will be lots of insects called cicadas. They will be large, and they will fly. They will make a very loud sound and we will hear them during the day and at night. They cannot hurt you. Sometimes they might fly near you or land on you. If that happens you can stand still until they fly off.”  Ask your child what questions they have about cicadas and try to find out the answers together.  For all children, even babies and toddlers, use images and videos of cicadas to get them used to what they will look and sound like.

Safely Handling Cicadas  

There are actually a lot of reasons that the cicadas are great examples to use to teach children about insects. First, cicadas are completely harmless, they cannot sting or bite, and they are not poisonous. Because they use their vast numbers to overwhelm predators and don’t try to hide or flee, they are quite docile and easy to catch, and in fact have a rather low sense of self preservation. They are also very large and easy for small hands to handle. Just remember cicadas are not pets and should be allowed to remain free. For a child who might be uncomfortable handling a live cicada they can try touching the exoskeletons shed by the larvae when they metamorphose into adults. You’ll be able to find these crunchy hollow shells everywhere when the larvae start to emerge.   

Become Citizen Scientists  

Even if your child does not want to handle or interact with the cicadas themselves, there are still lots of ways to learn from the emergence. For example:

  • Try using this Learning Lab collection of renditions of cicadas in artwork to compare and contrast with live cicadas.
  • Create your own drawings and art based on cicadas. You could even write a cicada haiku and submit it to this contest
  • Check out the website Friend to Cicadas which has lots of kid appropriate videos and information that you can share with your child and help them learn more.  
  • Put your observational skills to the test and help scientists track where the cicadas are emerging using the Cicada Safari app.  

No matter your or your child’s comfort level with creepy crawlies, there are ways to engage and learn from this cicada emergence. Teaching the children in your life to respect and appreciate nature is critical to making them feel connected to world around them and helping them become good stewards of the planet for generations to come.