Springtime Learning Fun: Planting a Butterfly Garden

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Spring is in the air, and butterflies will soon be fluttering by. The 19-month-old boy/girl twins I care for are interested in these beautiful creatures, so we spend a lot of time reading books, looking at pictures of, and talking about the butterfly (or, as he calls it, “ada”). We talk about the caterpillar’s metamorphosis, starting at the beginning with the egg, the feast of leaves, and the creation of the chrysalis. We talk about the different breeds and they like to point at them in books.

Because of the twins’ fascination with butterflies, I decided that this spring, as warm weather is settling in around us, I’d create a butterfly garden in MomBoss’s yard to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Books about butterflies are great, but with a butterfly garden of their own, the kids can get up close and personal with the real deal.

Planting a Butterfly Garden

A butterfly garden is a great way to teach your charges the joys of nature and the changes that spring has on the environment around them. Put simply, it’s any patch of nature (or even a balcony will do for city dwellers) with butterfly-themed tchotchkes and blooming flowers that will attract, you guessed it, real live butterflies. Here’s how you can make your own for your charges’ amusement.

Day One

We waited for the threat of overnight frost to pass, decided on a sunny space in the backyard, and got our supplies ready. For this project, you’ll need:

  • Painting supplies (use acrylic paints)
  • Sealant
  • Small clay flower pots
  • Watering cans
  • Top soil and potting soil
  • Flower seeds
  • Empty salt shakers

Strip your charges down to their diapers so they’ll be easier to clean after this messy activity. Once they’re “dressed for success” they can paint their pots (or their toes, bellies, and each other’s hair; don’t worry, it all washes out). Jump in and help them; painting is fun for all ages!

Day Two

This is a job for a grown-up. To ensure that the kids’ artwork from the day before doesn’t wash out in case of a monsoon, you’ll want to seal the paint permanently onto the pot using a sealant (a clear paint that is weatherproof).

Day Three

Now that your pot is fully dry and protected against the elements, it’s time to start planting. Place your pots where you want them in the yard, and then fill them with a mixture of topsoil and potting soil. Now let the kids water the dirt with their little watering cans. Don’t worry if they get more water on themselves than they do in their flower pots.

Day Four

Erect a shepherd’s hook in the yard if you can and hang a butterfly wind chime on it. The kids will love it, but best of all it will eventually hold your homemade butterfly and hummingbird feeder.

Day Five

Pour the flower seed mixture into plastic saltshakers and give them to the children. Instruct them to shake the seeds out onto the dirt in their pots. They’ll love the sound it makes. Cover the seeds with more dirt and let the children water the seeds again, explaining to them how the flower will eventually grow.

The job isn’t done yet! Let the children know that they must keep watering the flowers, even if there’s nothing growing yet, and watch for signs of growth.

Other Ways to Teach Kids about Spring and Butterflies

Foreign Language

Bringing some foreign language skills into the mix, you can teach kids about the early part of a butterfly’s life by reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar in French. Young children are language sponges. My charges already know that “papillon” is another word for butterfly, and their older sister has also taught them mariposa, the Spanish word, as well.

Coffee Filter Butterflies

They made coffee filter butterflies to hang over the table; they love seeing them. We made these with coffee filters; doll’s head clothespins, dot markers, and a spray bottle of water. Using the makers, color 2 filters for each butterfly, spray with water, and watch the colors blend and run. When they are dry, arrange the filters to look like butterfly wings and pin them in place. You can hang them from the ceiling with yarn. In the past I have had children color the pin to look like a caterpillar, made a filter to look like a chrysalis, and made the wings for the last step so that we can act out the life stages of the caterpillar together.

Butterfly Books

There are some really great books out there about springtime and growth. We have been especially keen on reading books about planting lately. Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert is a current favorite. My charges also love reading From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman and A Butterfly Is Patient by Diana Hutts Aston. The illustrations are amazing.

Butterfly Kits

I ordered a butterfly kit with Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars. I’m looking forward to watching my twin charges discover the magic of seeing their caterpillars become butterflies and then to release them into our butterfly garden.

Do your charges love butterflies as much as mine? Why not try out some of these cool activities this spring!