Butterfly Fun

I finally have a moment to share some of our activities we did while watching our living butterflies.  With butterflies we seemed to focus on the life cycle of the butterfly and then art activities.

Skills: art, math concepts (pattern making), science, dramatic play
Prep: low
Supplies: tissue paper, construction paper, laminator sleeves or contact paper, magnetic paper, cookie sheets, paper plates, paperfasteners, gluestick, fun foam, clothespin, fun foam decorations, pom pom balls, hot glue gun

Stained glass butterflies

These came out really well!  I just cut up colored tissue paper, but you can even buy pre-cut squares at Michaels.  We were going to make them with contact paper but why buy contact paper when you have an awesome laminator?  🙂  Using the butterfly template included below, I cut out two butterflies from a laminator sleeve (one sleeve makes two copies).  The tissue paper squares will stay on the rough side of the sleeve but the girls still wanted glue so we rubbed a gluestick all over the butterfly.  If you want to add a body, be sure to put that down first so that it will show up on top.  Once the butterfly is covered in tissue paper, then place it in an additional sleeve and run it through the laminator.  Then you can cut out the butterfly and have a pretty stained glass look to hang in the window.

Butterfly template

If you don’t have a laminator, like I mentioned, you can use contact paper.  Just cut out your butterfly, cover the sticky side of one sheet in tissue paper and your body and then place another sheet of contact paper over it.  Press them together and presto!

Pattern-making

We practiced making patterns with these butterfly and caterpillar cards.  Originally I was going to make it a file folder game but then I decided to make it a magnetic game for our cookie sheets.  I printed out these cards on magnetic paper.  Then I would start a pattern on their cookie sheet and the girls would finish the pattern.  They are just getting the hang of patterns so we would say the animals as we laid them down to make sure our pattern matched.

Butterfly and Caterpillar Cards

The girls really enjoyed this!  Mia even made her own pattern at the end.  Well, it was all caterpillars, but she was very proud of herself.  🙂

For younger children just learning about patterns, you can print out two copies of the larger pictures and cut the patterns into strips.  Kids can match the pattern strips.  Or you can print out one sheet of patterns and then have them lay down the cards on top of the patterns.

Butterfly/Caterpillar Pattern Strips

Lifecycle Paper Plate

Having watched the stages of a butterfly up close, we made these wheels out of paper plates to remind us of the different stages.  The girls first colored this worksheet.  Then I cut out the pictures and we glued them to the backside of a paper plate.  I cut out a corner of a second paperplate, to make the top piece, connecting the two with a paperfastner and decorating the title.  The girls like spinning the top around.  And I was so proud when Mia looked down at the handout and said “Pupa!”

Life of a Monarch Butterfly worksheet

Pretend Play

In addition to making our paperplate cycles, we also pretended to be caterpillars and butterflies.  The girls favorite stage was being in their pupa or chrysalis, but that was probably because they got to snuggle in their sleeping bags.  🙂

To learn how butterflies eat, we each used a party blower to be our proboscis.  The girls watched the butterflies uncurl theirs around flowers and then did the same with the party blowers.

Fun Foam Butterflies

These are super easy and super cute!  We are actually using them as little gifts with Mother’s Day coming up.  I used the same butterfly template as the stained glass activity, just a smaller size.  I cut the butterflies out of fun foam, then glued the clothespin to the back.  The girls then decorated them with precut fun foam pieces (we used the Art Deco pack from Walmart) and we added pom poms for the body.

 

 

Setting our butterflies free

We set our butterflies free just the other day!  The girls and I were all a little sad to see them go.  I was also a little surprised at how hard it was to get them to go free–they just wouldn’t fly out of their home at first.  Here is a picture of the girls saying good-bye.

Overall, this has been a really cool project.  The first morning most of the butterflies had hatched from their chrysalis (4 of the 5), the girls stood there talking to them all morning.  They introduced themselves and would sing songs to the butterflies.  It was so cute!  They loved just watching them, which really helped two rambunctious little girls practice being calm and still and observant.

In case you missed it in the Live Caterpillar Fun post, our butterflies first arrived as tiny caterpillars which we ordered through Insect Lore.  They came in a cup with food and a butterfly house as well as directions for feeding and caring for them at each stage.  Five caterpillars were included in the kit; however, one hatched with crumbled wings and didn’t survive very long, which caused the girls to learn even more about the circle of life than originally planned.

In addition to the books we checked out from the library, we really enjoyed Science is Simple. It is the book that gave us the idea to order butterflies and included suggestions for discussion and activities.

Caterpillar Activities

With the arrival of our caterpillars, we of course kicked off a caterpillar theme that included art, science, letters, and numbers.  Unfortunately the girls and I all became really sick so things didn’t go quite as planned and it’s taken us a lot longer to do what I had planned but here are our caterpillar activities.  I decided to save The Very Hungry Caterpillar activities for another post.  And, in case you missed it, you can read all about our live caterpillars and some of the fun we have had with them here.

Egg carton caterpillars

I just cut up cardboard egg cartons to make the caterpillar bodies and then the girls painted them.  I recommend using darker colors since the colors all faded a lot after it dried.  For the antennas I poked holes in the head and then threaded through a shortened pipe cleaner.  Then we glued on the googly eyes (because everything is more fun with googly eyes) and the pom pom nose (which I am not a fan of but the girls really wanted to add).

Caterpillar numbers

To practice our counting I made this caterpillar leaf game.  While it could easily be mounted to a file folder, I decided to keep the leaves separate so that the girls could focus on one card at a time.  I would put down a leaf and then the girls would add the correct number of “caterpillars,” which were really fuzzy pipe cleaners cut down to about an inch in size.

If you want to make the game a little more difficult and practice some fine motor skills, kiddos can add the caterpillars to the leaf using tweezers.  We tried this a few times but then the girls’ focus definitely moved from counting to playing with tweezers.

Leafs for Caterpillar Number Game

Pom Pom Dots and the Letter C

I’ve been debating getting the dot markers since I’ve seen a lot of templates for them,  but I was reluctant to get another craft supply when we have so many.  Then I decide to make our own reusable ones using cheap cookie sheets, pom poms, and magnets.  I used magnetic adhesive dots, similar to these.  Even though they had adhesive on them, I still needed to glue the puff balls to the magnets with the low-temp glue gun otherwise they came apart while we were playing.

Then for this theme we used a letter C and caterpillar page I found from DLTK here.

The girls loved it!  I wondered if it would be worth the effort since it seems a pretty quick activity, but as soon as they filled in the sheet they wanted to take all the balls off and go again.  It is the perfect toddler activity!  They really enjoyed picking out which color to use and filling in every circle on the page.  We will definitely be doing this with other pages!

More for The Letter C

Since we were talking about caterpillars, we also focused on the letter C.  One of our activities was filling our C template.  In my Easter egg post I mentioned how we were going to fill in one for each letter.  For C we used fun foam crosses we had from Easter, but cotton balls would also work well.

Letter C template

We also did some other C pages–the girls favorite was the pasting the numbers in the shape of the C.
Letter C coloring page
Cut & Paste C caterpillar

Caterpillar Poems

We did a few poems from The Complete Book and CD set of Rhymes, Songs, Poems, Fingerplays, and Chants by Jackie Silberg and Pam Schiller.  The girls especially loved this one, since it was short enough for them to memorize:

Who’s that ticklin’ my back? said the wall, (crawling fingers up arm)
“Me,” said a small caterpillar, “I’m learning to crawl.”

They were so proud of themselves for learning it and repeated it on skype for the family a few times.  🙂

Caterpillar Science

Obviously just having the caterpillars and watching their transformation is a great science activity for the kids.  The girls have been fascinated with them as they have moved through the different stages.  One of the other things we did was practice being caterpillars by wiggling on the floor.  We then bundled under blankets to be in our pupa and then burst out as butterflies.  They had a blast!

We also have read a lot of caterpillar books.  I think that with little kids it can be easy to shy away from non-fiction books because you worry they won’t understand or won’t be interested, but really this is a great time to introduce to little ones how much they can learn from reading.  I just did a quick search with our library for books on caterpillars and butterflies and we found some great ones.

Live Caterpillar Fun

Last week our caterpillars arrived and the girls have loved watching them!  Our newest friends have been moving and changing so much that we check on them multiple times each day. While the girls love the caterpillars, I love how excited they are about science as they are introduced to so many new concepts, such as the life cycle, investigating, observing and recording, magnification, nutrition.  They are also learning big ideas like respect for all life and that change can be a good thing.  The idea to order caterpillars as well as many of the activities we are doing actually and scientific discussions come from the book Science is Simple.

Unlike other parts of the country that are overwhelming with caterpillars, we haven’t had such luck so I ordered ours online.  We had a very positive experience with Insect Lore who sells caterpillar/butterfly kits as well as all kinds of other fun insects. Our kit included five live caterpillars in a cup with food and air holes as well as a butterfly enclosure they will move to once in chrysalis form.  If you don’t want to go the quick and easy route, you can capture caterpillars on your own or even capture butterflies and wait for them to lay eggs.  Just be sure to provide a clean, safe enclosure with appropriate food available.

To keep track of the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly I made us a giant calendar chart.  I wanted to have the girls chart the change but knew it would be hard to make it meaningful to them.  I decided to go with a calendar format with lots of pictures so that they could visual see the progression of days and the changes with our buggie friends.  On the days we don’t take pictures we write a few notes of what we have noticed.  To make sure we had enough space, I made the calendar with five weeks on it (it takes 7-10 to make a cocoon, which they are in for 7-10 days, and then they become butterflies).  I also didn’t include the dates because I didn’t want it to become too confusing, especially with the change in months at the end.

In addition to our chart, we also have been practicing our observation skills.  We purchased magnifying glasses before the caterpillars arrived (less than a dollar at the grocery store).  The girls have used them to watch the bugs as well as investigate everything in the house.  Indeed, “investigating” has become one of our favorite pastimes! 🙂

We also took “notes” on the caterpillars.  The girls have little spiral-bound notebooks where we made notes of what we observed.  We drew a cup on the page and then Mia and Zoe drew caterpillars inside the cup like they saw them.  They also made notes (scribbles) of what they saw.  It was great for early writing and science skills.

The perfect springtime activity, our caterpillars and eventually butterflies have inspired all kinds of fun with our latest theme.  I will be posting our caterpillar activities soon!

 

 

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