Tag Archives: butterfly

From Caterpillar to Butterfly – Teaching Preschoolers About the Magical Metamorphosis

If you ask a group of preschoolers to name their favorite insect or bug, chances are you’ll get quite a few votes for the butterfly.  They’re beautiful, gentle bugs, and their metamorphosis is simply spectacular.  If you have little ones interested in the butterfly life cycle, particularly if you are using the butterfly habitat, you might want to try this activity!

Once Upon a Time…

Start out with a book. You can rarely go wrong when Step 1 is a great story!  I like Butterfly Spring by Robin Koontz. (It’s not widely available, but you can find it here. It looks like this might be a similar book as well.)  The book uses great prose to follow a butterfly from its humble start as an egg, to caterpillar, then chrysalis, and finally to butterfly, which then lays more eggs.  It is a great example of a complete cycle, with wonderful little tid-bits of butterfly science facts along the way.  (For example, did you realize butterflies can taste flowers with their feet?!)

The Circle of Life

After the story, I use some prepared cards with the four phases of the butterfly’s life.  You can make these very quickly.  Make about three of each- egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. 

I set out an egg card, and ask the children what comes next.  The caterpillar follows, and on, and on to the butterfly, at which point I ask again, “What comes next?”  Since the butterfly lays eggs, we place another egg card in the series.  Continue on until someone points out that it’s a pattern, or until you run out of cards.

Talk about the repeating nature of this pattern.  Ask the children how long they think this pattern could continue.  Forever!  Since this pattern would go on and on, we use a different picture to show that. 

Place the cards into a prepared chart with the life cycle printed on it.  Talk about the term “Life Cycle” and discuss how the circle continues on and on. 

Learning about life cycles is not just important to understanding the butterfly’s metamorphosis, but it is an important general life science concept.  Additionally, it introduces the common notation for life cycles, which may seem obvious to us as adults, but understanding this graphic representation is a major milestone for our little ones! 

Discuss life cycles as they become pertinent to other topics you study (seeds fit well here).  Use the same notation to reinforce the graphic representation.

Fast Track

As you discuss the butterfly’s life cycle you may want to check out this great clip on YouTube.  It shows the metamorphosis in fast forward.  This can be great to use if your children are becoming impatient as your own chrysalids are still “under construction”, or if the butterflies emerged when the children were not around to observe.  Be sure to explain to the children that this video is sped up, and that the process does not really go this quickly!

Enjoy exploring this fascinating transformation together!

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Top photo by Leonardini.

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Butterfly Noodles

Isn’t it funny how children are much more interested in eating something when it’s has a fun name?  I have a hard time getting my children to eat Farfalle Alle Erbe Panna Rosa (a tasty little recipe from my sister-in-law you can find here), but if I call it “Butterfly Noodles”, they’re all over it!

Particularly when we’ve been talking about bugs, I like to serve up some butterfly noodles for lunch or as a snack.  You can serve them a million different ways!  Ok, a million may be an exaggeration, but you get the point – they’re versatile!  You can go with plain, just cheese, sauce from a can, family heirloom sauce recipe, chopped fresh tomatoes and basil – whatever it takes to get the kiddos to eat it, and you to feel like they got something healthy out of the deal! 

For some extra fun, I like to mix up a box of farfalle (bow-tie) noodles with a box of fusilli (spiral) noodles for a stellar favorite around here, known by the gourmet name of “Butterflies and Caterpillars”. 

Bring your little ones in the kitchen with you for all kinds of developmental benefits as they help prepare their own snack or meal. 

With this snack, I often talk to the children about whether or not they would really want to eat insects.  Most say no, but then we talk about how, in some places and cultures, insects are eaten!  Most children are more than happy to simply pretend.  And so am I.

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Top photo by Patrick Moore.


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Snack Time

Eric Carle Author Study: Building Your Own Very Hungry Caterpillar

Photo of Eric Carle  If you ask anyone to make  list of favorite children’s authors,  Eric Carle would almost certainly be on that list.  His work is both prolific and magnificent.  His simple text is brought to life by colorful texture and hands-on appeal.  I love talking to children about Eric Carle as we do our bug unit, because he has so many fabulous books featuring bugs!

Start off your author study by showing a picture of Eric Carle and introducing him as an author and illustrator.  Explain what those words mean, and point out that the children can be authors and illustrators too.  Show a wide array of Eric Carle’s books and have the children talk about what the books have in common.  You could list these features on a chart paper to reinforce what has been said, as well as the concepts of print.  Throughout the unit, refer back to those distinguishing features again each time you pull out an Eric Carle book to share with the children.  Stock your bookshelf with a variety of Eric Carle books- not just the bug ones- and let them explore!

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Book Activity: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is very likely Eric Carle’s most popular book.  The fuzzy little character has become as synonymous with Eric Carle as the Cat in the Hat is with Dr. Seuss.  This book is fantastically lovable, beautifully simplistic, and easily used to teach a variety of concepts, such as the days of the week, numbers and counting, healthy foods, and life cycles.

After reading this book with children, you can allow them to explore Eric Carle’s illustration style!  Point out that Eric Carle doesn’t just paint his pictures, and he doesn’t just cut out paper to form his pictures (as we explored with Lois Ehlert), but he does both!    He paints beautiful pieces of paper and then uses those as his “palette” to cut out and create collages for his fantastic illustrations.  (Learn more about his techniques in his own words.)

To experience a taste of Eric Carle’s art techniques, try this multi-day project.

First, place a drop cloth under your art table and then cover the entire surface of your table with paper (I actually do two layers to protect against seeping).  You could also take the whole project outside and simply tape your paper down on the ground or against a wall. 

Set out paint colors to coincide with the caterpillar’s body (yellow and various shades of green).  You can use paint cups, or use lids to plastic containers like I did here.  Set out a variety of tools to be used in addition to the brushes to create different textures as well.  Here are some ideas to get you started: combs, dishwashing wands, sponges, texture rollers, print blocks, corrugated cardboard, and bubble wrap.  Go crazy!  Get creative!  Eric Carle uses all kinds of things to create texture- even scraps of carpet! 

Really encourage the children to cover the whole paper with paint.  Point out some of the textures in some of Eric Carle’s illustrations and ask the children what kinds of textures they can create.

Repeat the activity again- or simultaneously if you have the room for two painting stations -using colors for the caterpillar’s head and feet  (red, orange, and yellow).

 Once your paper has dried, you have a paper palette, just as Eric Carle uses.  You can then do one or both of the following projects using the paper your children have prepared together.

Create a large mural for your room.  Cut out oval shapes for the body, triangular legs, and so on, then attach them together to create one larger-than-life caterpillar.  You could even continue the project and create a butterfly!

 You can also help the children to create individual-sized caterpillars on art paper.  For older children, you might have them cut out the circles themselves.  For younger children, I would cut out a collection of small green circles and large green circles, as well as small red circles, and large red circles.  You can talk about the shapes, sizes, and colors as the children glue them to their papers to create their own caterpillars.  They can also add other details with crayons. 

When doing this project, I like to have some of the paper we have painted cut into smaller sheets and available for the children to examine.   I like to remind them that this is their paper.  I point out some of the textures and talk about how they created them.  I also like to have the paper available in case someone wants to create something other than the circles I have prepared.  You can’t get in the way of creative ideas when you’re doing a creative activity!

While exploring Eric Carle’s art, I also like to take the unique tools to the easel and let the children experiment and create their own paper for individual creations.

Eric Carle’s style of art is so appealing and inviting for young children.  It encourages them to explore and use their creativity, along with their small and large motor skills.  As the children become more familiar with Eric Carle as an author and illustrator, they not only gain an appreciation for his work, but they build cognitive skills as they recognize details and similarities that help them to categorize books.  At the heart of this activity is the objective that the children will have an enjoyable, hands-on experience with literature, which will build language and literacy skills as well as a positive attitude about reading.  And odds are, if a child loves to read, that child will learn to read.

Up next in the Eric Carle series: The Very Lonely Firefly and the Very Busy Spider

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized

Preschool Study Theme: Insects, Bugs, and Other Creepy Crawlies

Bugs are just plain fascinating for kids!  Send your little ones out on a search for ladybugs, rolly-pollies, or ants and they will scour the yard for hours,  well, tens of minutes.  But in the land of the little ones, that’s a very long time!

I like to lump all creepy crawlies together first, because the children tend to do the same.  The differences within the class of arthropods –  the class that includes insects, arachnids, myriapods, etc. – can be pretty technical.  I have to fall back on some high school biology or a site like this one to make sure I’m getting it right myself.  Within the theme, however, I do like to point out some of the different characteristics of insects and spiders and encourage the children to begin thinking about sorting and classification.  Then if you notice they are increasingly interested in one bug in particular, you can do a more in-depth study on that specific one.

 Explore the world of bugs as you sing about them, move like them, paint them, and possibly even hold them!  I also love to use the topic of bugs to do an Eric Carle author study.  He has so many great bug books, it makes it very easy to provide a variety of excellent book activities by the same author while still following the theme.  You can examine and imitate his art method of painting paper and then cutting and gluing to create pictures, and even make your own mural.

Here are some of the concepts and objectives within the theme:

Concepts / Objectives Subject Areas/Skills
  • Characteristics of Insects
Science, Vocabulary
  • Comparison of Insects and Spiders
Science, Graphic Organizing
  • Author Study: Eric Carle
Language, Art
  • Numeral/Number Agreement
  • Word Identification
  • Representing Bugs Creatively
Science, Art, Fine Motor
  • Life Cycles
Science, Language
  • Imitating Bugs in Movement and Song
Science, Language, Large Motor, Music


Here is a bit of a brainstorm for activities involving those beloved bugs!  Those not yet linked will be linked back to this page as they are posted!

Eric Carle Author Study:


Fold-Art Butterflies

Filter Paper ButterfliesTry this idea.   As a variation, I have the little ones use colored water and eye-droppers.  I add a clothespin (unpainted-don’t judge me), but I’ve also seen pipecleaners used!

Painting Like Eric Carle

Build-A-Bug – Use playdough for the body and provide pipe-cleaners (legs, antennae, stripes), wax paper (wings), and anything else your-or their- imagination can conjure up to create a real or imaginary bug!


Butterfly Pasta

Ants on a Log (Try a new twist by using craisins as ladybugs)

Spider Cookies


Bugs in Sawdust

Gel Molds and Colors (I like to make connections between the eye droppers and liquid to the proboscis the butterfly uses.)

The Itsy Bitsy Spider’s Water Spout (Add plastic spiders and other bugs)

Bug Grab – Use this activity as-is, or add some plastic bugs as well!


Try outdoor themes where bugs would likely be found, such as camping or a picnic.  Add some plastic bugs and magnifiers to your usual props.


Flick a Fly – Hap Palmer

Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz) – Laurie Berkner (YouTube link)

Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky-Korsakov (YouTube link)(Listen, imagine, discuss, and move!)

Interesting Song and Poem List Here


Butterfly Life Cycle

There Was an Old Lady

Insects Vs Spiders

Bringing Bugs to the Classroom

I will be posting on this theme for the next few weeks and linking back to this page as an anchor to the unit.  Obviously, there are many more great ideas for activities on this topic.  I’d be on the same theme for a year if I tried to make it completely comprehensive.  So please, feel free to comment with ideas of your own as well!

Top photo by babinicz.

Second photo by iudit.
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Butterfly Fold Art

dscn1623Here’s a great butterfly art project that is not only fun and fancy, but reinforces small motor skills and creativity, as well as the concept of symmetry.

Prepare these supplies:

*Make your paper butterflies by folding your paper in half and cutting out half of your butterfly shape (you basically make a letter “B”). 

*Make corn syrup paint by pouring corn syrup in small containers (I love the plastic baby food containers from Gerber) and adding food coloring and mix well.

*Gather eye droppers, art trays, and wet rags.

For the activity, children use the eye droppers to dispense the corn syrup paint onto one side of the butterfly.  (You may want to keep the butterfly folded in half, so that only one side is accessible.)  The children then fold the butterfly and press on the outside to transfer the print to the other half of the butterfly.  (Open soon, or the butterfly will stick shut!)  After this simple metamorphosis, the finished product is a beautiful, shiny design, with a line of symmetry along the fold line. 

Don’t be afraid to use the word “symmetry” with your little ones.  Vocabulary is advanced one word at a time!  Simply point out how the pattern they made has been transferred to the other side.  Say something like, “That means it’s “symmetrical”, because the sides match like when you look in a mirror!”  You can also point out symmetry in their own bodies.  Draw an imaginary line down the middle and point out, “one eye on this side, one on that side; one leg on this side, one on that side,” etc.  You don’t want to drill in the vocabulary word, but use it a few times, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they pick up this advanced math and art concept!

You may also wish to use a different art medium rather than the corn syrup.  That’s fine!  Tempera paints or finger-paints would work also.  The benefit to using the corn syrup paint (besides the fact that it dries so shiny) is that it gives you a chance to talk about the fact that the butterflies eat a similar sugary syrup from the flowers, called “nectar”.  The butterfly’s mouth/tongue, or “proboscis”, actually works similarly to a straw, or the eyedroppers the children are using.  So it’s a nice science tie-in with the characteristics of butterflies that you may be studying!

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Filed under Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, science activity