Roly Poly Hotel

If you have a preschool-aged child running around your home, chances are he or she has brought in a roly poly or two from your garden. Because children are fascinated by these little creatures, they make great subjects for science experiments.

Before you and your child begin this experiment, you will need to round up a few items from around your home and garden:

  • Small rubbermaid container
  • Dirt
  • Moist dead leaves
  • Sticks and twigs
  • Medium-sized flat rock

Have your child fill the plastic container about halfway full of dirt from your garden. Explain to your child that you are trying to re-create a roly poly’s natural habitat. Where are roly polies found? They are found under rocks and piles of decomposing leaves. After the dirt is in the container, have your child place the rock in the container on top of the dirt and arrange the leaves and twigs around the rock.

Next give your child a jar and have he or she collect some roly polies for the roly poly hotel. This will be their favorite part of the experiment. After the roly polies have been collected, have them place them in the container.

Help your child create a “sign” with their name on it for their roly poly hotel. They can create it by hand or on the computer. Tape the sign to the front of the plastic container.

Now that the roly poly hotel is complete let your child sit and observe the roly polies and let he or she hold them and play with them a bit. Help them make observations about the roly polies by asking them questions. Ask them what the roly polies look like and what they notice about them. Ask them what color they are and how many antennae the roly polies have. You’ll be surprised at the answers they come up with. My boys told me that the roly polies roll up like armadillos!

If your child is going to keep their roly polies for further observation, have them keep the soil moist and keep the container out of direct sunlight.

If your children are older you can tailor this activity to their learning level. You could check out a book from the library about roly polies or search for information about them online and do a number of science activities with them. With preschoolers, however, you’ll find that their attention span won’t last much
longer than the observation part of the activity. After about five minutes of watching their roly polies my boys informed me they were done and were ready to go swimming!

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of five. For resources for the Christian family, including parenting, toddler and preschool activities, homeschooling, family traditions, and more, visit

Roly Poly resources: A Pill Bug’s Life by John Himmelman and I’m a Pill Bug (Nature: a Child’s Eye View) by Yukihisa Tokuda


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