Exploring the Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Over the last few weeks, there has been a special interest fluttering through our play spaces – an interest in the life cycle of a butterfly!

It all began when Heather brought in from home, a caterpillar and a chrysalis that were on her swan plant. Our tamariki love all living things and they were intrigued to see what the caterpillar was doing and examine the chrysalis that was silently hanging from a bottom branch. “The butterfly is sleeping”, the children commented and watched eagerly to see if they could see any movement inside.


At mat time, we went deeper into understanding the life cycle of a butterfly through music; singing the song “Fuzzy Wuzzy Caterpillar” together. Our tamariki acted out different stages in the life cycle, adding to their understanding of how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

To add more depth & complexity, different resources and experiences were set up around our environment. Some of our children spent time looking at pictures of the butterfly life cycle and replicating this through drawings. Others chose to engage in butterfly themed puzzles and books.


The story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle came out – which is a favourite of many children, and this was read and re-read multiple times. Children also used the hungry caterpillar characters to retell the story, reciting what he ate in the correct order. Storytelling for children encourages the development of verbal communication skills. Alongside props, it also helps them to recognise and add meanings to symbols.

A few days later, Heather brought in another chrysalis and to our surprise was - it was ready to pop! Because butterflies live outside, we thought it would be best to take the chrysalis outside so that it could be born into its natural habitat.


We all gathered around and waited silently, anticipating what was going to happen. Slowly the chrysalis began to move and then the butterfly started to break out. This was an amazing experience to witness and we wondered if the butterfly was going to fly straight away. We watched as it flew around our playground and then settle on our bird house.


The beautiful patterns on the butterfly and on the caterpillar really captured the children’s interests. We decided to explore this more, by looking through books about different types of butterflies. We found that the butterfly we had watched was a Monarch butterfly - the typical type of butterfly you find flying around gardens.


Since our tamariki love the arts & being creative, we decided to create our own butterflies – but didn’t limit ourselves to just black and orange paint. Soon Buckle My Shoe was filled with rainbow butterflies - each one uniquely designed. As we like to utilise recyclable materials, a caterpillar-making station was set up using egg cartons and paint. Each child was invited to make their own caterpillar, adding additional details such as tentacles made with pipe cleaners. This provided them the opportunity to look at the features of a caterpillar more closely.


Becky also had a swan plant at home and noticed a few caterpillars & a chrysalis on a branch, which she brought into the centre. Again, the children were so fascinated with how the caterpillar was eating up all the leaves; eagerly showing their parents what was happening during pick up and drop off time. They also noticed the caterpillar leaving behind small green droppings – “presents” from consuming all his meals! 😊

This interest in the life cycle of the butterfly is a clear example of children exploring their curiosities about the world around them. There’s more to come – watch this space for updates on our butterfly and caterpillar adventures!