Activities, Education

Preschool Activity: Raising Butterflies at Home


We’ve had some pretty rotten luck with pets.

When Eva was born, we had two cats but we had to rehome them when Eva was about one and a half because it turned out that she has severe cat allergies. She’s also allergic to birds (another rehoming), dogs, rabbits, hamsters, horses, and pretty much all the cute and fluffy things. We caved and got a betta fish last year but that fish went the way of all fish eventually. Le sigh.

So, butterflies. Little pets that grow from babies, turn into beautiful beings, and then they go away so you don’t have to have sad pet funerals. High fives all around!


Fair warning: this was a homeschool lesson in slooooow motion. I ordered an easy reader book about butterflies and a live butterfly kit which came with a certificate good for five shipped-to-your-home caterpillars. It took about two weeks total between ordering the butterfly kit and actually getting the caterpillars so I held off on sharing the butterfly book with Eva until they arrived. Finally, on delivery day, we read the book and then opened the box.


Ok, I had no idea how temperamental caterpillars are. We were home when they were delivered and we spent about 10-15 minutes reading before I opened the box (honestly, I thought maybe they could use a break from the motion of being shipped) but according to the company, I waited to long to open them. Those suckers were NOT moving.


This was confusing because the pamphlet that came with them said that they might seem like they aren’t moving but really they would be fine. In theory, you aren’t supposed to do anything with them (you can’t even take the lid off the cup) so all we could do was wait and watch and wait. We did that for three days. Then I called the company.

Despite the fact that they blamed me for not immediately opening the box, they did send out a replacement cup. They were very careful to say that we had to be home to get them and that if the weather was too hot or too cold they wouldn’t make it anyway and we wouldn’t get any more replacements. Yikes! These little pets were much more high maintenance than I had anticipated. Luckily, our replacements were active and moving around from the first moments out of the box. Of course, this was two weeks after we’d gotten the other ones. Like I said, sloow motion.


A little comparison: dead baked caterpillars vs happy camper caterpillars.


About three weeks after that, they started to do this:


Three weeks! It’s an eternity for preschoolers. The kids liked checking on them, but since they couldn’t poke them or hold them or shake them, the experience wasn’t quite as interesting for the kids as I would have hoped. I had a hard time getting them excited after a while and they didn’t really connect with these little guys.


Once they were all in a chrysallis, I removed the sheet of paper attached to the lid and pinned it to the inside of the butterfly house. I have to admit that this made me a little squeamish because they’re creepy little papery shivering things that rattle and squirm but once they were pinned I could zip them up and forget about them. After that, it was about another week before they hatched. Sadly, the kids weren’t home when the butterflies all decided to come out so they missed out on what was probably the most exciting part.


We kept them for another week, feeding them using a sponge that was soaked in sugar-water and then we let them go. The kids wanted to keep them longer, but I didn’t want them to up and die on us and I don’t know how long butterflies can live on processed sugar so it was time for them to go. Apparently some people build freestanding butterfly homes and raise these guys all the time, but I think an annual release is a better fit for us.


Here are a few movies showing the butterflies in action, including their exciting release. The little guy at the end had gotten his wings wet in the sugar solution and needed a little help:

Homeschool: Raising Butterflies

Home movies from our time as butterfly parents

Posted by Ever Clever Mom on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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1 Comment

  • Reply Morgan

    This looks like such a fun project! It’s really important to expose children to wildlife and teach them how to be gentle with nature, and this is a great way to do so! Fantastic idea! Thank you so much for sharing!

    May 17, 2016 at 10:28 am
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