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Disclosure:  Safari Ltd provided me the Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly free of charge at my request.  Though I was offered this product for free, the opinions offered are my own and were not swayed by the free product.  This post also includes some affiliate links to Amazon for your convenience.

We have been raising butterflies every summer since S was old enough to walk.  As the daughter of a former science teacher, it's probably not a huge surprise that S adores bugs.  Butterflies are just so interesting - and to be honest, I just can't pass up an opportunity to hold one.  It's still rather like magic to me.  :)


Even at 20-some months, S was very intrigued by the process.  She would act out the lifecycle and visit with her caterpillars every day.  Though when she was this young, the rate at which they grew was a bit lost on her.  Here she is visiting with her caterpillars.  This set of caterpillars was from a science education company and there were 8 of them in that tiny little cup - so yes, I may have felt badly for them and upgraded them to the bigger house which you see below.  As a general rule, they are fine to be raised in the cup they arrive in.  :)


S was an avid bug handler, and had learned how to be gentle - and understood that you could not grab/touch the butterflies wings, so she was able to release them herself.  See what I mean?  Isn't this photo pure magic?  


Somewhere around 3, S was old enough to really learn about the life cycle of butterflies and to be able to notice the caterpillars' rapid change in size.  So I was thrilled when Safari Ltd. was willing to send us  one of their Safariology Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly sets.  Manipulatives are such a great teaching tool for children in general - and in this case, I really feel they are extra useful since handling caterpillars/chrysalides is likely to result in their death.

We have raised butterflies from several companies and have had success with all of them; here you see us using InsectLore's Live Butterfly Pavilion.  We generally get several uses out of their butterfly tent and order our "refill" caterpillars from whichever company is cheapest (often science education companies will run specials during the summer).

Here is S loving on her caterpillars right after they arrived this year.  She's made them a "snuggly nest".


They are soooo tiny when you first get them.  Almost cute, even.  Almost.


Here's where the manipulatives start coming in handy.  S got to touch and poke and handle the pretend caterpillars and eggs on the leaf (she is always sad that she can't handle the real ones) and then we compared the sizes.  She observed that the yellow pretend caterpillars were much bigger than her real caterpillars.


Two days later, we checked, and they were about the same size.  "Whoa!" exclaimed S.


She was even more surprised to find that the real caterpillars were bigger than the yellow pretend caterpillars just two days after that.


Not long after, we got to watch as one by one the caterpillars made their chrysalides.  Here S is comparing the model to the real things.  The model is of a Monarch Butterfly and the butterflies we raise are Painted Lady butterflies - so there are differences which S noted.


When the first butterfly hatched, S eagerly watched it pump its wings.  We've watched several videos of butterflies emerging (YouTube is great for this) and last year and this we were lucky enough to catch a butterfly emerging.  It happens really quickly.  Surprisingly so!  In both instances the butterflies emerged in just a few seconds.


A few days later (so long as you have warm weather), your butterflies are ready to be released.  They generally don't fly very far at first, so it was fun to watch them land on the plants and trees in our yard before moving on to the great wide world.


A little (touch free) snuggle before sending the butterfly on its way.


Between reading some great books (I'd really recommend this one) and playing with the Safari Ltd Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly, S is now a pro at explaining the butterfly life cycle.  I asked if she'd be willing to teach you all for the blog and she agreed, but was (adorably) nervous.  I love her little timid voice (and the hilarious mistake she makes) - she was a little intimidated to teach you guys!  :)


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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

Comments

  1. Can I just say how much I luuuuv this? Like, very much ;) And the video was precious. I want to order some caterpillars now!

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    1. Thank you, Stephanie! S makes a great instructional video, I must say. I have never had a cuter teacher! And do it - raising butterflies is SO FUN!

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  2. Its been in my mind to try to get a caterpillar or two and keep them till they transform into butterfly. And THINK is the only thing that I've done so far. Creepy crawly caterpillar, cute as they can be but it sends goosebumps all over me just by thinking about them hahaha~ They say Mummies are great, they will do any thing for their child. O-kay... I'm still on that direction... to get over the fear of them cute little creepy crawlies, hopefully soon (like ten thousand years later haha~) I will get it over and go to the park and grab some caterpillars.

    Till then, I will be satisfied with just showing my 7yr old your wonderful post. Thank you for the great info!

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    1. Hahaha - you can keep them in the closed cup at least? I know, caterpillars are a bit creepy for sure. But butterflies are awesome! And thank you for the kind compliment! :)

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  3. We raised butterflies for the first time this spring, and we ALL really enjoyed watching the transformation. Such a great tradition to continue on each year :)

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    1. I love that you live in a place warm enough to do this in spring! It's not warm enough to release them here in Seattle until June at least (and sometimes July!). It is fun for everyone, right? Well baby X didn't get it so much this year. But next year!!!! :)

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  4. This is wonderful! I have been wanting to do something like this with my class. You are inspiring!

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    1. Thank you so much for the wonderfully sweet comment! You should do it, Janet! Butterflies are so magical!!!

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  5. Really cool! I did this when I was a little kid and now hope to share this with my students. I am a preschool teacher and was thinking of doing a butterfly unit. When is the best time to order the caterpillars? Any advice?

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  6. The key is to have it warm enough outside that the butterflies will survive. I think somewhere around 70 is their ideal temperature (but I'm not totally positive). We always get ours in the May-July range because Seattle has pretty cold springs. Hope that helps!

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Welcome to Fun at Home with Kids! I'm Asia, a teacher (M. Ed) turned SAHM mom to two young kids: X and S. Around here we like to do a little bit of everything - science, art, crafts, sensory play, and small world play. Click here to read more about us!
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