We have raised tiny little caterpillars from Insect Lore a few times now over the years, and it’s such a great experience for young children as well as being pretty foolproof and definitely easier than raising kids, haha. We thought this time would be the perfect opportunity to cover a whole topic on butterflies and moths! The past couple of times we had so much fun just standing by and watching but this time I wanted to give the learning experience a little more substance, especially now they are both older and use the experience to broaden their knowledge even further as well as get some writing in there somewhere.
I know this butterfly garden is pretty popular so I’m hoping this post will provide some inspiration for other parents, whether they be home educators like me, or otherwise to get the most out of this magical experience as well as recording our activities and learning to surround this subject! It’s best to do this topic over the warmer months, purely because the caterpillars are only sent out during warmer weather but also because butterflies are much easier to see and study in real life during the Summer so it’s definitely worth waiting! For reference, my girls are 3 and 9 so this topic I have focused on EYFS as well as KS2, some things Lily didn’t do or I’d simplify and Eloise overall did a lot more written work because Lily is only 3, it was relatively easy to cater to both ages so anything and everything can be adjusted to suit your little one’s age and ability.
The Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston + Sylvia Long
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Butterfly Fairy’s Secret by Fran Evans
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Become a member of the Butterfly Conservation
Week one is all about introductions and observations! Read stories, watch documentaries, watch your caterpillars, watch the moths and butterflies outdoors, etc. While research continues as the lifecycle of the butterfly unfolds but every topic needs some form of introduction which will then be expanded on through the following weeks and observation is the heart of learning, children need to see first hand and experience the experiences where possible! So get outside and up close and personal to real caterpillars and butterflies, not just beautiful illustrations and photographs, let them hear the beat of the butterfly’s wings and watch the caterpillar nibble that leaf.
insect lore butterfly garden
Once you have purchased you Butterfly Garden Kit from Insect Lore, depending on whether you purchased it with the caterpillars or with the voucher, start week one as soon as you order your caterpillars, the whole process takes about 3 weeks so use this week for soaking up knowledge. Of course, you don’t need to buy this kit, would could always just watch videos or read books but it will make the whole experience much more enjoyable and allows the children to really experience the whole process first hand.
observe the caterpillars
Observation is really important for older and younger children alike. Being able to see the movement and characters of things up close give them something a textbook never could, allowing them to take it all in for themselves in real-time is an amazing way for them to really learn about whatever it is they’re learning about. If you have caterpillars from Insect Lore then they will be in a pot with their food which kind of looks like cookie mix in the bottom of the tub. This is obviously to make it easier for us to raise them and of course, caterpillars in the wild eat leaves and things so getting outside and finding some will be a really great way to see how they really make their way through the vegetation.
record the growth of the caterpillars
This is a great science and maths activity merged into one; the children can watch as the caterpillars grow at a surprisingly fast rate, they can record their findings and not only be learning about how the caterpillars grow as well as testing out their measuring skills (although I will say, measuring caterpillars through a plastic cup is pretty tricky!) and learn how to conduct an investigation and record their findings. For older children, you could throw a bit of a curveball into the equation (no pun intended) and have them record the median measurement each day and talk about other ways they could conduct the investigation fairly and more accurately. Our caterpillars only stayed caterpillars for 5 days but we are doing it in the midst of Summer. The caterpillars arrived much bigger than our previous ones with them measuring 1.6cm to start when they have been little over half a cm the other times we have had them.
read/watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is fantastic for engaging younger children in the lifecycle of a butterfly. Although not particularly accurate as I can’t say I’ve ever seen a caterpillar eat salami or swiss cheese, haha, the overall message is the same. Younger children tend to be more engaged with the activity if there is a lovely story to go alongside. Twinkl have some great VHC resources for EYFS so definitely check them out! Lily has loved colouring in the caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly sheets (we chose to skip the mountains of food but they’re all such lovely illustrations!). I also urge you to watch the video version too, it’s available to watch on YouTube and it’s just so beautiful!
During week two it is likely that your caterpillars will start getting ready for the next stage of their lifecycle and begin their transformation into chrysalides. You will notice when they begin because they will slowly start making their way up to the very top of their little tub and hang upsidedown. When they start twitching, the process will happen quite quickly. Our caterpillars all transformed within a few hours so keep an eye out for this so the children can watch. Next time we are going to try and create a time-lapse of this process but for now, we are waiting for the next transformation to try and capture on film!
observe the transformation
It’s likely that this is the week for the first big transformation so keep an eye out for signs that your caterpillars are about to change!
visit the Butterfly Farm (or similar near you!)
This gives children the opportunity to see a wide array of different species as well as see all the different stages of the butterfly lifecycle in one place. We saw chrysalides, butterflies, moths, as well as many other wonderful creatures. This week is a great week to organise an outing like this as the chrysalis stage is probably the least engaging for younger children because well, they don’t really do much during this stage so an outing is a great way to keep them engaged.
write about the visit
For older children, ask them to write about their outing, including all of their favourite things about the visit as well as any interesting facts they’ve discovered! If your child is younger or isn’t a fan of writing by hand then type it up with them or even make a short video about it! They could even vlog it or paint a picture of their favourite part. I’ve written a blog post about making writing fun for anyone looking for ideas to mix it up a bit.
This is one for bedtime! When it’s dark outside, turn on an outside light and watch all the moths fly around it.
I think we all know how to do these types of paintings, I know I used to love making them as a kid! All you need to do is get your kids to paint half a butterfly on one side of a sheet of paper then fold it in half and you’ve got a lovely symmetrical butterfly! An art and maths lesson in one!
plant some butterfly-friendly flowers
This can tie in to be a research project too for older kids, have them use the internet or look through books to find butterfly and moth friendly plants and flowers to plant in the garden! Buddleia, jasmine, honeysuckle, and lavender are good shouts!
This is the week for butterflies! (hopefully). If the weather is slightly colder this process will take longer. Don’t forget to keep hold of the chrysalides remains after your butterflies have hatched as these will be great for some close-up investigation and some sensory learning. Don’t worry if your butterflies hatch earlier than this week, this is common in hot weather! This plan is just a guide, make it as short or as long as you want.
study what butterflies eat
As soon as your butterflies hatch it’s up to you to feed them so researching what it is that butterflies snack on is definitely a great move! The caterpillars do come with nectar you can make for them but they also love other things too and getting your child to research this is a great addition to the topic! Getting them to help prepare the fruit, etc too is a great activity as well!
butterfly life painting
Take a set of watercolours to a sunny spot or print off a photograph and let them loose with some poster paints. This is a great way to get them really looking at the different parts of a butterfly and all the lovely colours. The girls painted a whole bunch of different butterflies and moths and it’s a great way to identify lots of different species too!
take part in the big #butterflycount
Grab a print off and download the Butterfly Conservation app and you’re away to go! Take yourself to a sunny spot, a garden or field for example and count how many different species of butterfly you spot in 15 minutes. Don’t forget to log your findings!
butterfly + moth anatomy
Using the Stephanie Hathaway Designs Moth printable, we labeled the most beautiful moth illustration. The entire moth activity bundle is absolutely gorgeous and we used all of the bits between the girls as some were more focused on EYFS whereas some were very much for older kids but the balance was great for us! I love how this bundle has a lowercase letter for little ones to colour or trace and this is definitely something I will be implementing with our further topics for Lily because it’s a great way to throw letter recognition into the mix!
set the butterflies free
After a day of observing the butterflies, we set them free on a lovely sunny day. If you leave them in the enclosure too long there is a chance they will lay eggs so setting them free within a couple of days of hatching is ideal.
Both girls thoroughly enjoyed this topic, Lily semi overcame her fear of butterflies and Eloise was fascinated despite having raised butterflies a couple of times before. The Insect Lore kit is fantastic and is definitely something we will be doing again, I have my eye on the silkworm rearing kit, I think they look so interesting!