Bring on the Butterflies

butterflies in the parkBring your net and your sense of wonderment – there are butterflies in the park! We crafted a beautiful community garden, then waited for the butterflies to arrive. Swooping, diving, floating, and fluttering, how many butterflies can you catch for your own little garden?

We read Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay (Running Press, 2015). A little girl moves from the country to the city, trading the sounds of birds and crickets for horns and trains. Her new house is right next to Butterfly Park – except that there are no trees, no flowers, and no butterflies in the park. Well, there is one butterfly, but it flies away. Undaunted, the little girl knocks on doors, recruiting neighborhood children to find butterflies to live in the park. Eventually, their search leads them to an important clue – flowers! Soon, the whole neighborhood is in Butterfly Park, planning, digging, and planting. Not only do butterflies come to live at the park, the little girl realizes that she’s found a home too.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 golf pencil
  • Green pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, and/or drinking straws
  • A selection of tissue paper
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers
  • A flower coloring template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Green color masking tape
  • Green construction paper
  • Butterfly catching game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

This story time project had three parts: 1) Making a little garden; 2) Putting all the little gardens together to make one big butterfly park; and 3) Catching butterflies in the park to take home in your little garden. We’ll begin with the little garden!

finished butterfly gardenWe used 9.5″ x 11″ cardboard trays rescued from the recycling bin. Flip the tray over and use a golf pencil to punch holes in the top (the golf pencils worked great with 3-5 year-olds and were much less scary than using scissors to poke holes).

butterfly garden step 1If you don’t have a tray, a large tissue box works too. Cut the top off the tissue box. Then, cut the entire box down to 2.5″. Flip it over, and use a golf pencil to punch holes in the top:

butterfly garden alt baseTo plant your garden, cut a pipe cleaner, sparkle stem, and/or drinking straw in half. Attach a flower to one end, then poke the other end through a hole in the box. Secure the stem to the underside of the box with tape (or leave them loose so you can “pick” them!).

butterfly garden step 2As you can see above, we offered tissue paper and baking cups for the flowers. You can also use the flowers from the template, and the kids can color them in. We brought out green construction paper grass fringes, green paper crinkles, and craft ties as well.

finished butterfly gardenWhen the decorating was done, the kids brought their little gardens to the BIG garden. The big garden consisted of a sign and 4 corner “hedges” we festooned with flowers. Kids placed their little gardens between the hedges, forming a perimeter in full bloom.

butterfly park

The hedges are recycled cardboard boxes. The sign is made of 3 recycled scroll boxes (2 as posts, one as the cross beam) and a piece of white cardboard. This garden is Marissa’s handiwork, right down to the beautiful hand-lettering on the sign. And check out her flower arranging skills!

The flowering garden is waiting, now for the butterflies! I found mine at Oriental Trading Company. Specifically, they’re from the the “Butterfly Hanging Door Curtain.” One curtain costs $6.50, and you get about 60 butterflies per curtain. The butterflies are sturdy tagboard, look realistic, and they’re printed double sided.

sample of butterfliesFour at a time, kids stepped into Butterfly Park wielding toy nets (I found mine in the $1 section of Target). Then Marissa and Joani strewed butterflies down upon them. Well, sometimes there was a little more dropping into nets than strewing…

marissa strews butterfliesOnce kids had caught some butterflies, they gently tucked them into their gardens to take home. Did they have fun? Yes they did! Some kids even stayed 20 minutes after story time ended, just to get in on some more butterfly catching fun!

in the butterfly park

Metamorphical Magic

meta magicFeed the caterpillar some leaves, place it in a chrysalis, and watch it dramatically emerge as a colorful butterfly! Thanks to the hidden elastic cord, the butterfly appears to soar on it’s very own! It’s a super simple story time project that combines science, art, and magic all in one.

We read Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar by Clare Jarrett (Candlewick, 2008). While climbing trees, Arabella Miller discovers a tiny caterpillar. She makes him a shoe box home, feeds him cabbage and parsley, observes him shedding his skin, and finally watches him spin a chrysalis. When he emerges weeks later, Arabella Miller discovers that he is something quite new! As he flies into the sky, she calls out an enthusiastic good-bye to her special butterfly.

You’ll need:

Begin with the butterfly! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper. Attach sticker eyes (or draw them on with markers) and a smiley mouth (I used a piece of self-adhesive foam, but you can use markers too). Curl an 8″ piece of twisteez wire (or pipe cleaner) and tape on the inside of the tube for antennae.

butterfly frontTurn the body around, and punch a hole in the back, near the top of the head.

butterfly backCut the butterfly wings from the template (we used manilla card stock, and it looked great). Hot glue your butterfly’s body to the wings – just make sure the wings don’t cover the hole you punched in the back.

wings from backNow decorate both sides of the wings! I offered glue sticks, cellophane, embossed foil paper, tissue circles, dot stickers, and markers.

When the wings are finished, thread a 27″ piece of elastic beading cord through the hole. Knot the ends together, and wrap the knot with a piece of color masking tape. The taped knot is an important part of the magic trick, so make sure you don’t skip this step! Your finished butterfly is now dangling on an elastic cord loop, secured with a taped knot.

butterfly on cordWe set our butterflies aside so the glue could dry. Just look at these little beauties (Katie shot this with the panorama function on her phone)…

butterflies Next is the caterpillar! Wrap a toilet paper tube with green construction paper, add some stripes with color masking tape, and attach eye stickers (or draw some eyes on with markers). Use a 4″ piece of twisteez wire (or pipe cleaner) to make antennae. Attach the antennae with tape.

caterpillarFinally, we distributed construction paper leaves (which we prepped in advance) and brown paper bags. All that’s left is the magic trick! To work some metamorphical magic, load your butterfly in the bag. Keep the taped knot near the front of the bag where you can easily see it.

taped knotNow “feed” your caterpillar some leaves (the kids LOVED this part).

feeding the caterpillarWhen it’s “full,” place the caterpillar inside the bag (a.k.a. the “chrysalis”). Keeping your hand inside the bag, locate the taped knot. Put the looped cord around your wrist.

the loop Bring your hand outside the bag and grab the top. The cord should still be looped around your wrist.

grabbing the bagSay something like “Behold the magic of nature!” Pull your hand away from the top of the bag. The cord around your wrist will pull the butterfly from the chrysalis as if by magic!

the big reveal

Monkey Business

monkey businessWith a turn of the wrist, this gymnastic little money swings around (and around and around) his colorful rainforest branch!

monkey swingsWe read BIG Little Monkey, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Candlewick, 2008). A little monkey wakes up one morning, ready to play, and finds that his family still wants to sleep. He decides he’s ready to be a Big Little Monkey and leave the tree to find some new friends to play with. He encounters a sloth, a parrot, and finally…Sly Boa. The game “curl my tail around in tricky ways” doesn’t sound too good to Big Little Monkey, so he quickly scoots back to his family, happy to be their Little Monkey once again.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Dark brown construction paper for body, hair, and ears.
  • Light brown construction paper for mouth (approximately 2.25″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 oval of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 strip of brown poster board for the tail (approximately 2″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 monkey business template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An 8.5″ x 8.5″ square of tagboard for arm & leg templates and tree branches
  • box cutter
  • 1 brass fastener
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • A pencil for tracing
  • 6 – 8 green construction paper leaves
  • 2 small feathers
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by wrapping the oatmeal container with dark brown construction paper. Fringe more dark brown construction paper and tape it to the top of the lid for hair. IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t tape the lid to the oatmeal container closed! You’ll open the container later to secure your monkey’s swinging arm.

Cut the light brown construction paper rectangle into an oval, and glue to the front of the head. Attach the wiggle eyes (using hot glue), the self-adhesive foam oval, and two dark brown construction paper ears. I used the markers to drawl little swirls in the ears and put a smile on my monkey’s face.

monkey faceYou’ll notice that the ears very close to the eyes and mouth. This is so the ears don’t hamper the movement of the monkey’s swinging arm.

The face is done, now for the body! Curl one end of the brown construction paper tail around a marker, then tape or hot glue it to the back of the oatmeal container. Cut the arms and legs out of the template and tape (or hot glue) the two legs and the short arm to the container. I curled the short arm up in the classic monkey “hand in the armpit pose.”

classic monkey armFinally, the monkey’s swinging arm. Cut a tagboard arm from the template, then place the paper towel tube on the round part of the swinging arm. Use the pencil to trace the diameter of the tube onto the template. Then cut the circle out.

swinging arm stepsUse the box cutter to make a small slit at the bottom of the swinging arm (you can see it in Step 3 of the image above). Make another slit in the side of the oatmeal container. Push the brass fastener through the slit in the swinging arm:

swinging arm 1 Then remove the oatmeal container’s lid and push the brass fastener through the slit in the oatmeal container.swing arm 2cReach inside the container to unfold the prongs, then replace the oatmeal container lid.

swinging arm 3The monkey is done, now for the rainforest swinging branch! Cut two tagboard branches (mine were about 8.5″ long):

branchesHot glue or tape the tagboard branches to the very end of the paper towel tube. Use markers to color the bird and the butterflies. The butterflies and green construction paper leaves can be glued of taped onto the tagboard branches. The bird requires just a few extra steps. First, fold the template like so:

bird step 1Using the dotted lines as guides, fold the two tabs outwards.

bird step 2Use tape to attach 2 small feathers to the bird template as a tail. However, when you finally tape or hot glue your bird’s tabs to the branch, make sure the bird is at the very end and the tail faces away from the monkey’s swinging area.

end of tubeAgain, attach the branches and bird on the very end of the tube! Otherwise, those items will be smacked repeatedly (or completely taken out) by the swinging monkey. We had a few tangled monkeys and squashed birds at story time, and had to do some quick repairs.

To operate the monkey, slide the swinging arm over the paper towel tube, hold it at arm’s length, and begin swaying the tube back and forth. As you build more momentum, the monkey will circle around and around on it’s branch. It’s virtually impossible to not make monkey noises while you’re doing this. Go on. We dare you to not make monkey noises!