When I grow up, will I have wings, too?
This is one of the many important questions my children asked as they became more observant to birds and flying insects. It’s funny now, but their questions were sincere.
I think my youngest was the ripe old age of three when his brothers and I were hanging out in the park enjoying the weather and getting in some exercise (aka letting the kids burn up some of their seemingly endless store of energy, lol). My youngest ran over to the bench I was sitting on to rest for a bit and noticed a butterfly fluttering around nearby.
As often happens, he launched into a series of questions:
Where do butterflies live?
What do they eat?
How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly?
Is that a boy butterfly or a girl butterfly?
When I grow up, will I have wings, too?
I answered the questions to the best of my abilities and then made a note to look up more information on butterflies when the kids were taking their naps.
This led me down a rabbit hole! I started wondering how I could turn this one experience into a full unit study. I figure that I can’t be the only parent out there whose child is fascinated by butterflies, so I thought I’d share my findings with you guys. Below, you will learn about 3 cool ways to teach your kids about butterflies.
I want to start off with my favorite! A fellow homeschooler told me about this one after using it a few times with her son and I knew that I had to check it out. This company specializes in insects (if their name didn’t give you a clue, lol) and gives your family the chance to raise and observe them in a safe environment. With their Butterfly Garden, you can actually watch caterpillars as they go through the full process of becoming a butterfly.
On their website (which is super easy to navigate), you can order a butterfly garden (a pop-up, reusable mesh habitat that stands at approximately a foot tall) and a cup of caterpillars (each cup comes with five baby caterpillars plus all the food they need to thrive). The kit also comes with a bit of literature you and your kids can read to learn about caterpillars and how to raise them. Then you get the chance to watch them go through the fascinating metamorphosis from caterpillars to chrysalides to Painted Lady butterflies.
Once they complete the transformation (from the comfort of the Butterfly Garden), you and your child can enjoy feeding them sugar-water and watching them flit around before releasing them into the world, where they can help to pollinate flowers in your yard and neighborhood.
In addition to the basic Butterfly Garden Kit, they also have the Very Hungry Caterpillar gift set, which would be a really cute gift for kids who love the Eric Carle classic. It comes with Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed materials and a gift voucher to order the caterpillar cup when the gift recipient is ready for them.
Visit a Butterfly Garden
Another option is to visit an actual butterfly garden. There are butterfly exhibits and gardens all over the United States. Some are part of a zoo or a museum and some are attractions in their own rights. What they all share is that they have built habitats specifically to attract and provide sustenance for a wide variety of butterflies. Stepping into a butterfly garden is like a tiny bit of magic – especially if you’re only used to seeing a few butterflies at a time. Here are a few notable butterfly gardens to visit, besides our favorite at the Tennessee Aquarium. Perhaps there is one near you!
The result of one person’s passion project, Butterfly World (located in Coconut Creek, Florida) has over 20,000 varieties of butterflies and birds to observe.
Located in the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina, Magic Wings is one of the largest butterfly gardens on the East Coast. Immerse yourself in the 35-foot tall glass conservatory where you will be surrounded by hundreds of tropical butterflies thriving in a rainforest environment. In addition to witnessing the butterfly releases, you can also learn from an actual butterfly expert.
Located in Branson, this first-class exhibit showcases some of the more rare types of butterflies. If you’re on a family vacation in Branson, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Start a Butterfly Garden
Don’t have a butterfly garden near you? Start one in your own yard! Getting started can be as simple as growing flowering plants that will entice butterflies to visit your yard to feed. You can also grow plants that are good for feeding caterpillars. For tips on how to grow a successful garden, check out this article by the North American Butterfly Association, How to Start a Butterfly Garden.
Before you go here’s some other Science posts you might love:
- Popcorn & Salt Science Experiment
- Simple Candle Science Experiment
- Water & Coin Science Experiment
- Oil & Food Coloring Science Experiment
- 3 Science Experiments You Can Do With Materials In Your Home
I hope that this has given you a few ideas on how you can incorporate butterfly lessons into your homeschool. Is there a cool or unique way you’ve taught your kids about butterflies? Let us know in the comments below!