The Butterfly: Teach Your Child About Nature and Transformation

This column, in partnership with Mommy & Me, is dedicated to providing parents and young children with fun and simple ways to make the most of the time they spend – laughing, loving and learning – together.

Now that summer is here, there are many beautiful things in nature for you and your child to enjoy together. Exploring nature together not only helps your child develop an appreciation for the beauty and wonders of our natural world, but it’s also a terrific opportunity for you and your child to share the fun and process of discovery.

 Your Child Will Learn:
• The lifecycle of butterflies
• Colors
• Shapes
• Fine motor skills
• How to follow directions
• Creative expression

One of the most incredible icons of the wondrous transformation of springtime and the growing season is the butterfly. Butterflies have been celebrated throughout history in art and literature as symbols of creativity, freedom and the splendor of nature. The life cycle of the butterfly is fascinating to everyone, but it’s particularly magical for children.

Learning about butterflies is a perfect Mommy & Me together-time activity. Use the following projects to trace their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and, finally, to butterfly. Be sure to explain the entire process to your child. Older children can comprehend the details more easily, but all children, regardless of age, will be able to appreciate the magic of this metamorphosis.

Mommy' Materials for: 

Caterpillar Project
• Egg carton
• Pipe cleaners
• Glue
• Beads (for older children)
• Non-toxic markers

Butterfly Project:
• Non-toxic black marker
• Clear contact paper
• Safety scissors
• Several colors of tissue paper
• Yarn
• Pipe cleaners


These activities can be done over time. If you can’t finish a project, put it aside and continue it on another day. Remember, it’s about having fun together, not rushing through a project.

Caterpillar Crawler

1. Cut an egg carton (Styrofoam™ works best) lengthwise so there are two six-section halves.

Stick one pipe cleaner through each cup so it hangs out on either side to form legs.

Take two pipe cleaners and stick them through the front of the first cup for antennae.

Put glue on the edges of the carton and seal the carton.

Let dry, and decorate. Be sure to draw or glue beads on – for the eyes.

‘Stained-Glass’ Butterfly

1. Draw a butterfly shape with marker onto the front of clear contact paper. You can use a pattern, but it’s more fun to create an original shape.

2. Peel off the back of the contact paper and lay it on the table, sticky side up. (Don’t cut the butterfly outline yet.)

3. Cut tissue paper into 2-inch squares. Cut, tear or crumple the small pieces and press them onto contact paper. Decorate the interior of the butterfly, leaving as much or as little space clear as desired.

4. Lay another piece of contact paper on top, placing the sticky sides together so the tissue is "sandwiched" in between.

Click here for Butterfly Sing-Alongs
to sing with your child to bring back memories of the wonderful together-time you shared!

5. Cut out along your outline.

6. Make a hole at the top of the butterfly and insert yarn or thread to hang. Glue on pipe cleaners as feelers.

7. Trim with pipe cleaners to finish off.

8. These butterflies look beautiful hanging in windows as sun catchers and lend themselves to discussions of light, shadow, transparency, translucency, opaqueness and color.

Butterfly Books to Share

Butterfly Boy,
by Virginia Kroll, Boyds Mills, 2002.

Charlie the Caterpillar, by Dom Deluise, Aladdin Library, 1993.

Waiting for Wings, by Lois Ehlert, Harcourt, 2001.

Where Butterflies Grow, by Joanne Ryder, Lodestar Books, 1989.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, Putnam, 1983.

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Mommy & Me author Cindy Nurik, Ed.D., is a family therapist, a specialist in early childhood education, a playgroup pioneer, mom and author of Fun with Mommy & Me (Dutton, 2001).