Year Round Nature Activity for Kids: Raising Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterfly

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Raising butterflies is a perfect nature activity for young children–it’s fairly easy to do, and gives everyone a firsthand look at a butterfly’s life cycle.  Reading excellent books on the topic makes the experience even more delightful.

Want to give it a shot?  Read on for our favorite butterfly-raising resources.

Also check out this post: Nature Activity for Kids: Butterfly Identification.


Recommended Butterfly Kits:

Did you know that some folks actually track down butterfly eggs out in “the wild” and raise them?  I’m so impressed by that, but haven’t tried it.  Yet.

An easier, albeit more expensive, option is to order a Butterfly Kit.  There are many sources for these kits, but when I polled my elementary teacher friends and biology experts, three companies stood out.

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We chose the Insect Lore Butterfly Pavilion

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, raising five Painted Lady caterpillars into adult butterflies.  It was such a memorable experience!

We ordered our butterfly kit in the early spring, giving us plenty of time to raise the butterflies and release them outdoors.

(The whole process takes about three weeks, from the time you receive the larvae to the time they transform into adult butterflies.)  Depending on where you live, there is still plenty of time for you to do the same.

Also note that entire process can be conducted indoors.  Adult butterflies live for only a few weeks, so you could keep them inside their special habitat throughout their entire life cycle–which means that raising butterflies can be done any time of the year.

Either way, whether you release them into “the wild” or witness the end of their life cycle indoors, there is an element of sadness.  But it’s a part of life, and there is such value in allowing kids to observe the entire cycle.

Excellent Butterfly Books


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The Very Hungry Caterpillar
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— I feel a little silly listing The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but it really is an excellent book about the butterfly life cycle and there just may be someone, somewhere who hasn’t yet heard of it.


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Waiting for Wings
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Lois Ehlert is one of our favorite children’s author/illustrators.  She has many excellent nature titles for kids, and Waiting for Wings is one of them.  We read it at least several times every spring.


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Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria MerianNote: Summer Birds contains references to witchcraft, in that folks of the Middle Ages believed butterflies came from mud, by magic.  Maria Merian studied the mysterious insects in secret, and eventually disproved the erroneous theory.  We loved learning about her methods of butterfly study.


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Butterfly House
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We especially loved Butterfly House
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.  Eve Bunting is a highly regarded children’s author, and a favorite at our house.  The illustrations are simply beautiful.


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The Butterfly Alphabet BookJerry Pallotta has an entire series of alphabet books, and we own quite a few of them.  The Butterfly Alphabet Book is one of our favorites, especially with Older Brother.  We’ve learned about all sorts of unique butterflies that we may never have the chance to see in person.


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From Caterpillar to Butterfly (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1)
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–We’ve found this Read and Find Out series to be helpful on a whole variety of topics.  Each book seems to have clear, condensed explanations, with colorful, accurate illustrations.


Have you raised butterflies?  Do you have favorite butterfly resources?

Painted Lady photo credit

Painted Lady Butterfly
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Kathleen Henderson

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Diane Connor on 09/05/2013 at 11:49 am

    You are so right!! My daughter & her two sons have done this for the past several summer’s, the amazing conversations that have resulted from this activity is memorable, watching God’s little miracles is such a blessing.
    They used the pavilion this year, mason jars also work but we liked the big space for the butterflies best and you can put more than one in at a time. They find their own caterpillars which is fun too.

    • Kathleen on 09/05/2013 at 3:25 pm

      So fun! We really enjoyed using the butterfly pavilion, too. 🙂

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