Caterpillar and Butterfly Theme for Preschool
Butterfly activities for preschool
Do you long to REALLY teach your kids about nature? Caterpillar and butterfly theme studies can be all crafts, or you can really dive into the science behind these creatures. What’s even better is to do a little of both! I love studying life cycles with my kids and entomology. The younger they learn this the better!
Butterfly facts for kids
The first time I watched the life cycle of a butterfly happen in front of my eyes, I cried. To tell you the truth, I’ve cried every time. I’ve been showing my kids for years every spring, and it’s still something that takes me back a bit.
Watching the metamorphosis of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen. I want to share this with kids and teach them the wonders of nature! There is not much else I have found that can help them understand than actually seeing it themselves.
Click here to see more about teaching kids metamorphosis.
Your butterfly theme can be amazing too. You can order caterpillars online to do this activity in the classroom, but you can also plant things that will draw them right into your yard where the kids play.
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Drawing caterpillars to the garden
Caterpillars love herbs. We plant fennel every spring to draw black swallowtail butterflies over to lay eggs. They lay many and we bring a few in the house in a clear box so we can learn. Every day we head out to the garden and pick fennel for them to eat fresh and they fatten up before our eyes. They make their chrysalis (which is an amazing process of its own!) and in a few days (about two weeks) they come out of it as a gorgeous butterfly.
Caterpillar activities for preschool
You can attract caterpillars with other plants as well. They enjoy parsley, carrot tops and dill as well as other plants. We have had the best luck with fennel.
We watch the area and when we see swallowtails dipping down into the herb area of the garden, we go and look for eggs. The eggs are tiny greenish clearish orbs on the ends of the fennel frawns. A few days after they are laid, tiny little caterpillars appear.
Letting the kids see each of the steps in the life-cycle helps them to understand what’s going on. They are also learning the symbiotic relationship between plants and bugs. It’s so cool, even to me still as a grown adult that does it every year.
You can help the suffering population of monarch butterflies by planting milkweed in your yard. Milkweed is the only thing monarch caterpillars eat so they must have it to live. Click here to see how to be a butterfly hero.
Butterfly activities for toddlers
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can plant a few herbs in a pot or even a bucket and grow them to attract some new caterpillar friends. A great way to attract butterflies to the yard is planting flowers.
Butterflies are great pollinators and will come to drink nectar from your flowers. They seem to prefer flowers that have small clusters of flowers rather than the one big flower type. There are butterfly bushes, weeds and plants.
The great thing about using nature in your classroom is the wide variety of science lessons you can get from it. You can use vocabulary words such as metamorphosis, life-cycle, biology, entomology, botany, egg, larvae, pupae, adult, and so much more!
You can teach colors, counting, sorting, patterns and so much more with butterflies, caterpillars and plants in your butterfly theme. There’s really no limit to how far you can take it.
You can make a butterfly feeder with your kids by placing some crushed fruit pieces on a plate and placing it in the garden for passersby to enjoy.
Take a piece of white paper and fold it in half. Let kids squeeze a drop of different colors of paints into the center of the fold. Fold the paper back over and let the kids press outward on the paint. Open it up to reveal a gorgeous butterfly.
Give the kids a coffee filter. Let them squeeze drops of food coloring or liquid watercolor paints onto it and watch it bleed out. Once filters are dry. You can squeeze the center and pinch it with a clothespin to make the butterfly. It can be a plain clothespin or you can use a clothespin to make a caterpillar and then clip it with that.
To make the clothespin caterpillar, let kids glue pom poms onto the length of the clothespin and add eyes, antennae, or whatever you have the supplies for.
We have even decorated toilet paper rolls like the chrysalis. Then the kids made the filter and we let it dry. I placed the filters inside the chrysalis. Then they decorated the clothespins into caterpillars. I let the kids place the dry caterpillars into the tubes.
Then I arranged it where the clothespin was pinching the filter wings. Next, I let them glue tissue paper covers over the ends of the tube and we hung them up. A few days later, I let them open them and pull out the clothespins and the wings I had hidden in there were in. We fluffed them up and had the whole life cycle in art we had done. It was so fun.
More butterfly art ideas
Use a cut-out butterfly shape made of paper or poster board. Give kids paint dabbers to decorate butterflies with.
The same cutouts could be used with collage materials for them to create butterflies with. Talk to kids about how the wings mirror each other and let them try to make the wing designs they create mirror as well. It’s great for them to learn the patterns and tendencies in nature.
You can also let kids decorate a set of paper wings and gather the middle together with a pipe cleaner. That’s a great way to illustrate the fuzzy middle of the butterfly too.
You can make a butterfly puppet with a paper sack, use toilet paper rolls and wings, cut them out of a paper plate or anything else you can think of. There are so many ways to make a butterfly for your butterfly theme.
Caterpillars can be made by cutting the sections of an egg carton and adding a face. You can use pipe cleaners for antennae and wiggly eyes if you like.
You can also let the kids paint caterpillars by dipping their finger in ink and stamping it, using the end of a paper towel roll to dip in paint and make a row of circles, dipping a ball, cut apple or end of a potato in the paint and stamping a row of circles. There are a million ways to make a caterpillar and they are all adorable.
You can do an Eric Carle style caterpillar too. Let kids paint on plain paper with green paint. When it’s dry, cut circles out of the painted page and let kids glue them into a caterpillar shape.
A caterpillar necklace could be strung using cheerios or beads on a string.
More caterpillar and butterfly theme ideas
The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a wonderful book to help show the kids the life-cycle of the butterfly. I love to read it when we are doing our theme (or anytime really).
Fuzzy Caterpillar song:
The fuzzy caterpillar,
Was climbing up a tree….
He wiggled short, he wiggled long, he wiggled back at me….
I put him in a box.
Don’t go away, I said!
But when I opened up the box,
A butterfly instead.
This song has great hand motions with wiggling your caterpillar finger and making your hand butterfly fly away at the end.
Caterpillar and Butterfly Theme for Preschool
Identify colors using butterflies you see or those in a book
Identify patterns with butterfly shapes, stickers, cards, or whatever you have on hand.
Sort and make patterns with butterfly shapes.
Caterpillar/Butterfly theme for kids is one of my very favorites! I hope you will enjoy it with your kids.
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