Backyard Activities for Kids

Soil Wildlife

Observe Soil Wildlife in your own backyard.
Observe Soil Wildlife in your own backyard.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Soil Wildlife backyard activity helps kids learn important lessons about nature. They will discover a community of creatures living under the soil!

How to Observe Soil WIldlife

What You'll Need:

  • Trowel
  • Shallow Dish
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Notebook
  • Pencil or Pen

Step One: Go outdoors with a trowel and dig around under large shrubs where leaves have fallen. Brush aside the top layer and dig up some of the partially decayed leaves and the soil underneath them.

Step Two: Spread your sample out in a shallow dish and observe it with a magnifying glass. Record and draw the organisms you see, such as:

  • Earthworms: Easy to recognize by their segmented bodies.
  • Beetles: These insects have six legs and a hard, shiny look. They may be black, metallic green, gold, or blue.
  • Grubs: These larvae of beetles and flies are worm-like, but thick-bodied with many stumpy legs.
  • Springtails: These tiny, pale, wingless insects, usually white or pale gray, have a special structure on their abdomens which they use to spring high into the air.
  • Spiders: Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs. Not all spiders weave webs. Some live and hunt near the ground.
  • Mites: These have eight legs, like spiders, but are round-bodied.
  • Centipedes: Centipedes have one pair of legs per segment. They can bite, since they are predators.
  • Millipedes: They resemble centipedes, but their legs are shorter, and they have two pairs of legs per segment. Millipedes do not bite.

Beetles, earthworms, springtails, and millipedes feed on dead plant material. By breaking leaves into tiny pieces, they make it easy for bacteria and fungi to complete the decay process. Centipedes and spiders are predators.

Looking for more outdoor games? Try:


Soil Wildlife by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls