Within the insect world, the praying mantis holds a position of fearsome predator, hunting other insects such as flies, grasshoppers and even each other. If your little explorers want to learn about the praying mantis, use educational and entertaining crafts to help teach them in an enjoyable way.
Sketching the Praying Mantis
Provide your youngsters with a live praying mantis in a jar to study, or give them assorted photos and drawings of praying mantises. Pass out paper, colored pencils, crayons and markers and encourage a drawing activity. An easy way to draw a praying mantis involves a circle for a small head and a long diagonal line for the body. Show your kids how to add front legs in a praying position near the top of the diagonal line. The praying mantis has two more pairs of legs -- spaced evenly along the body -- and a pair of wings along the top of the body. Remind your children to add antennae and large eyes on the head to finish.
Sculpting a 3-D Praying Mantis
Air-dry modeling compound can be an effective medium for sculpting a three-dimensional praying mantis. Provide pictures for your kids to use for inspiration and model your own praying mantis along with your kids to help them succeed. Make a small triangle-shaped head and a long, slender body. For the legs, use chenille stems, cut into 2-inch lengths and bent into shape. Insert the chenille stems in pairs, two near the head, two at the center of the body and two near the tail end. Add additional 1-inch-long chenille stems for the antennae.
Designing a Praying Mantis Habitat
Once your kids sculpt a three-dimensional model of a praying mantis, encourage them to make a habitat for it out of a large shoebox. Use tissue or construction paper to create grass, leaves and trees. Glue the assorted foliage to the inside of the shoebox to create a lush environment for the praying mantis. Draw insects such as flies or crickets on the insides of the shoebox. Add plastic insects to the shoebox for realistic props in the habitat. Add the sculpted praying mantis to the habitat.
Clothes Pin Praying Mantis
Gather a spring clothespin, green marker, two green chenille stems, two googly eyes, scissors and school glue to make a simple praying mantis. Show your youngster how to color the clothespin with the green marker to make it completely green for the praying mantis body. Cut six pieces of chenille stem, each about 2.5 inches long, for the six legs. Cut two 2-inch pieces of chenille stem for the antennae. Bend the leg pieces in half and glue three legs to each side of the clothespin, spacing them evenly along the body. Glue the eyes to the top of the clothespin, slightly in front of the spring. Glue the remaining chenille stem pieces to the top of the head, near the eyes. Allow the glue to dry completely before your child plays with the praying mantis.