A fun and simple experiment to encourage curiosity, develop an interest in science and nature, and foster appreciation for the way God made the world
“We have caterpillars on our counter!” my ten-year-old daughter excitedly told a friend, as my five-year-old added, “yup, we are GROWING them!”
It wasn’t exactly like that. No invasion of caterpillars like ants. Not “growing” them like you grow carrots.
They sit, in a little sealed cup, on my kitchen counter so we can observe them. And they can’t escape, a super important detail, since as much as I try to be a super fun mom, bugs of any kind just aren’t my thing. At all!
Except.. this activity is super easy, interesting, and the kids love it!
We ordered a kit online, which included a butterfly cage (a pop-up mesh tent). The caterpillars arrive separately after you send in for them. They come sealed in their container, which has food for them at the bottom. Seven to ten days after arriving, the caterpillars create their cocoons. After three days, you move them from the jar to the cage. This part seems hard, but it is actually super simple! I’ll admit that I wore gloves, but that’s just me (please reference my previous comment about how bugs just aren’t really my thing!)
7-10 days later, the butterflies emerge!
My kids (Ages 5 and 10) were completely fascinated by this entire experience. The day our caterpillars arrived, we kicked off the adventure by pulling out and reading out one of our favorite children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle(#affiliate)
After that, we headed to our local public library. We found a few books about the butterfly life cycle and a DVD about butterflies. We watched the DVD right away, looked over the books, and checked our caterpillars daily to monitor their changes.
And change they do!!! When the caterpillars first arrived, they were tiny. It is amazing to see how fast they grow and to really get to look at them up close. I had my daughter keep a chart to monitor her observations (we made it on colored paper and filled it out with colored pens to keep it fun). There’s a lot of waiting during the cocoon stage, but the kids still checked on them daily (or multiple times a day since we lack patience around here!).
Once the butterflies emerged, we watched them in the cage for a day or so, then released them into the backyard. They fluttered around the yard a bit, and a couple even stayed a while before flying off.
Now, every time we see a butterfly, the kids try to decide if it was one that we “grew.” The cage can be reused, so when we do this again, it will just cost a little bit to buy the caterpillars. There are several butterfly kits available, but we used this one from Insect Lore(#affiliate).
This is a great idea for teachers, parents, and grandparents, plus it makes a fun birthday gift as well!
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*This post originally appeared about six years ago on my previous blog, Play on Purpose. Since then, my kids have gotten older, but we’ve repeated this experience a couple of times, they still talk about how fun this was, and we plan to do it again this summer even though they are older now. Give it a try with your kids soon!
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