Raising butterflies is a perfect nature activity for young children–it’s fairly easy to do, and gives everyone a firsthand look at a butterfly’s life cycle. Reading excellent books on the topic makes the experience even more delightful.
Want to give it a shot? Read on for our favorite butterfly-raising resources.
Also check out this post: Nature Activity for Kids: Butterfly Identification.
Recommended Butterfly Kits:
Did you know that some folks actually track down butterfly eggs out in “the wild” and raise them? I’m so impressed by that, but haven’t tried it. Yet.
An easier, albeit more expensive, option is to order a Butterfly Kit. There are many sources for these kits, but when I polled my elementary teacher friends and biology experts, three companies stood out.
We chose the Insect Lore Butterfly Pavilion, raising five Painted Lady caterpillars into adult butterflies. It was such a memorable experience!
We ordered our butterfly kit in the early spring, giving us plenty of time to raise the butterflies and release them outdoors.
(The whole process takes about three weeks, from the time you receive the larvae to the time they transform into adult butterflies.) Depending on where you live, there is still plenty of time for you to do the same.
Also note that entire process can be conducted indoors. Adult butterflies live for only a few weeks, so you could keep them inside their special habitat throughout their entire life cycle–which means that raising butterflies can be done any time of the year.
Either way, whether you release them into “the wild” or witness the end of their life cycle indoors, there is an element of sadness. But it’s a part of life, and there is such value in allowing kids to observe the entire cycle.
Excellent Butterfly Books
- The first two books [The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Waiting for Wings] are more appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers.
- The second two books [Summer Birds & Butterfly House] contain many more words, making them more appropriate for older preschoolers and elementary students.
- The last two books [The Butterfly Alphabet Book & From Caterpillar to Butterfly] are more non-fiction-y, and may be more appropriate for older preschoolers and elementary students, but could be read in shorter sections to young preschoolers.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar— I feel a little silly listing The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but it really is an excellent book about the butterfly life cycle and there just may be someone, somewhere who hasn’t yet heard of it.
Waiting for Wings—Lois Ehlert is one of our favorite children’s author/illustrators. She has many excellent nature titles for kids, and Waiting for Wings is one of them. We read it at least several times every spring.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian—Note: Summer Birds contains references to witchcraft, in that folks of the Middle Ages believed butterflies came from mud, by magic. Maria Merian studied the mysterious insects in secret, and eventually disproved the erroneous theory. We loved learning about her methods of butterfly study.
The Butterfly Alphabet Book—Jerry Pallotta has an entire series of alphabet books, and we own quite a few of them. The Butterfly Alphabet Book is one of our favorites, especially with Older Brother. We’ve learned about all sorts of unique butterflies that we may never have the chance to see in person.
From Caterpillar to Butterfly (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1)–We’ve found this Read and Find Out series to be helpful on a whole variety of topics. Each book seems to have clear, condensed explanations, with colorful, accurate illustrations.