Butterflies Day 1: Life Cycle

Butterflies Day 1: Life Cycle

For the first day of our butterfly unit study we learned about the butterfly life cycle.  We learned that the butterfly and the moth life cycles are very similar. We made some life cycle crafts and did some writing and reading as well.

Butterfly & Moth Life Cycle

1. Discuss: Ask the children “How do butterflies and moths grow? Do they start out as little babies like us or from eggs like snakes, frogs, turtles, and birds?” Because butterflies and moths are insects they start out as an egg. When the egg hatches the butterfly or moth is called a caterpillar or larva. Caterpillars spend most of their time feeding on plants and grow very quickly. A caterpillar grows into a pupa. A butterfly pupa is called a chrysalis and a moth pupa is a cocoon. What do you think happens to the pupa inside a chrysalis or cocoon? The pupa is turning into a butterfly or a moth. This process of change from caterpillar to butterfly or moth is called metamorphosis. Have the children repeat the word “metamorphosis.” During the pupa stage the transformation from larva to adult is completed. Butterflies make a chrysalis to protect them as pupae.Many butterfly pupae are well-camouflaged, since they can’t escape from predators by flying away. Just before the butterfly emerges, you can see their wing patterns through the pupa covering. The pupa stage usually last ten to fourteen days.

2. Read: Caterpillar to Butterfly by Camilla de la Bedoyere

3. Review: Review the butterfly life cycle with hand motions. What is the first stage in a butterfly’s metamorphosis? An egg (hand clutched tight in a fist). What is the second stage of a butterfly’s metamorphosis? A caterpillar (index finger extended, scrunched, extended, scrunched). What is the third stage of a butterfly’s metamorphosis? A chrysalis (index finger wrapped by other hand-like a hotdog). What is the last stage of a butterfly’s metamorphosis? A butterfly (thumbs interlocked, fingers wiggling and making a flying motion).

4. Comprehension questions: What are the 4 stages of butterfly or moth metamorphosis? Egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis or cocoon), adult (butterfly or moth)

Butterfly Life Cycle Craft
  • Clothespin
  • Small pom-poms
  • Google eyes
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Glue
  • Toilet paper tube
  • Green tissue paper
  • Another color tissue paper
  • Tape
1. Glue pompoms to clothespins with google eyes, and a piece of bent pipe cleaner for the antennae. Butterfly Unit (78)
2. Make the chrysalis by gluing green tissue paper squares onto toilet paper rolls. When they are completely covered and dry, staple one end closed. Butterfly Unit (77)
3. Make wings for the butterflies by pinching rectangles of tissue paper, and taping them in the middle, to fit in the center of the clothes pins. Butterfly Unit (75)
4. With the addition of a tiny pompom “egg”, you can discuss the butterfly life cycle.
5. Fold the wings up, and stuff them into the toilet paper rolls with the tape end up.Butterfly Unit (74)

You can act out how the butterfly wraps itself in the chrysalis shell, and then emerges, after a few weeks, with it’s wings crumpled, and wet. To sun itself, and gradually dry, and straighten out it’s wings, ready to fly. Butterfly Unit (71)

Life Cycle Metamorphosis Activity


  • Drawing Paper
  • Scissors
  • Crayons
1.  Fold a piece of paper in half.
2.  Draw a kidney bean shaped figure along the folded half.
3.  Cut out the figure.Butterfly Unit (91)
4. Unfold the figure, draw, and color a butterfly on one side of the paper.Butterfly Unit (88)
5.  Fold the paper in half again with the blank sides facing out.  Draw and color a caterpillar on one side.Butterfly Unit (87)

6.  Flip the folded paper over to the other blank side.  Draw and color a chrysalis on this side. Butterfly Unit (86)

Label a Life Cycle

I used the Label a Life Cycle form to review the stages of metamorphosis.  We also used page 33 of Butterflies and Moths to help with the review.

adult – the winged adult will lay the eggs. Adults do not eat, they only sip liquids through a straw-like proboscis.
larva – also called the caterpillar hatches from the egg. The larva spends its time eating, growing and molting (shedding its outgrown exoskeleton).
pupa – the stage in a butterfly’s life when it is encased in a chrysalis and undergoes metamorphosis into the adult.
egg – the tiny orb laid by a female butterfly. Eggs are usually laid on the underside of leaves – they hatch into larvae.

Butterfly Life Cycle Picture Wheel

  • Bowl with about 8 inch diameter
  • 2 pieces of cardstock
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Crayons or markers
  • Glue stick
  • Copy of butterfly life cycle pictures
  • Paper fastener
  1. Place the bowl upside on the cardstock and trace a circle around it. Do this to both pieces of the cardstock. Add a little handle to the wheel. Cut out both pieces.Butterfly Unit (90)
  2. Cut a triangle out of one wheel with the tip of the triangle almost to the center of the wheel as pictured.Butterfly Unit (84)
  3. Color the life cycle pictures and then cut them out.Butterfly Unit (85)
  4. Have the children sequence the pictures in the correct order to help with the next step.Butterfly Unit (83)
  5. Glue the pictures in order around the whole wheel.Butterfly Unit (82)
  6. Punch a whole in the center of the 2 wheels and place the one with the triangle cut out on the top.
  7. Connect the wheels with a paper fastener.Butterfly Unit (81)
Butterfly Story
I found this Butterfly Story page to color and practice some writing.

Butterfly Unit Study

Day 1: Butterfly Life Cycle

Day 2: Caterpillar Anatomy

Day 3: Butterfly Anatomy

Day 4: Butterfly vs. Moth

1 Comment

  1. Excellent resource. This is a great study for us right now, as we have our own little caterpillar we found on our nature walk this week. 🙂 It will be a great teaching tool; thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *