If you have never had caterpillars turn into butterflies in your classroom before, I hope you will give it a try!  The children LOVE this!
   They love watching the little caterpillars grow,
      they love watching the silent chrysalis,
         and they especially love the miracle
              of the emerging butterfly!
Caterpillars in your classroom is a wonderful hands-on science project about life cycles and it also creates excitement that makes teaching cross-curricular topics a joy, because your students will be so engaged!


Butterflies all go through the amazing process of metamorphosis, starting with the egg, hatching into the hungry caterpillar, transforming into the silent pupa and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly.  However, different butterfly species have varying durations for each stage:

PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY:  This is the kind you will have if you order from Insect Lore.
  • Egg:  4-14 days
  • Larva (caterpillar):  2-4 weeks
  • Pupa (chrysalis): 7-14 days
  • Adult (butterfly): 6-20 days
MONARCH BUTTERFLY:  The photos above are of the Monarch Butterfly (my personal favorite).
  • Egg: 4-6 days
  • Larva (caterpillar):  2-3 weeks
  • Pupa: (chrysalis): 5-15 days
  • Adult (butterfly): 1-3 months



The first thing I like to do is find some butterfly larva (caterpillars).  Some caterpillar sources:

  • A friend who has caterpillars in her garden (with their host plant for food)
  • Caterpillars from your garden. I started planting milkweed to attract the monarch butterflies, and they came!
  • If you do not have access to caterpillars, you can get them. I have ordered butterfly larva (caterpillars) from Insect Lore for over 15 years and have had great success.

Insect Lore Giant Butterfly Garden with Voucher, Green/White

Butterfly Life Cycle Kit Lifestyle Stages of Monarch Butterfly Teaching Tools for Kids, Students


My favorite way of introducing the butterfly's life cycle is with a ‘mystery box.'  It requires them to use deductive reasoning as they ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes' or a ‘no.'  This activity piques their curiosity and primes their curiosity. You will probably find that they never tire of trying to ‘deduct' what you put in the box!

Your mystery box can be as simple as a box with a question mark written on it.

Butterfly Classroom Activities


After your students have ‘deduced' what you put in the mystery box is the perfect time to do part of the KWL chart.  

K= What We Know – record what your students know or think they know.
W= What We Wonder This can be done as a whole group, with partners, or individual activity, depending o the needs and abilities of your students.  
L= New Learning – we will fill this in as we continue through the unit. This is a great place to correct anything that we thought we knew – but now have learned differently,
Sticky notes make creating this anchor poster/bulletin board easy.  Students love to use sticky notes to write down their ‘new learning' and put it on the board.


This amazing video takes your students through all the stages of metamorphosis: adult, egg, larva, pupa, and completing the cycle with the hatching of the adult butterfly. 


Students observe the caterpillars (larva) with magnifying glasses.  Guide students to notice the size, color, silk threads, little black dots on food, how the caterpillars move, etc.

Students fill in the first page of their Caterpillar Observation Journals.  I like to set time aside each day for students to observe the caterpillars and record them in their journals.  This could be done in whole-group, small group, with partners, or as an individual activity.

I have this journal for you in a free download – look below.

Watching the caterpillars eat and grow delights the kids (as well as adults) and they never seem get enough ‘caterpillar time'.  

This is the perfect occasion for them to make an entry in their ‘Caterpillar Observation Journal'.

After the caterpillars change into a pupa in the chrysalis, I transfer them to the butterfly ‘pavilion'.  If you have a place to hang it, then the students can enjoy the waiting time with more ‘watching in wonder'.

The look on their faces tell it all – WONDER!

You can fill this ‘waiting time'  with lots of activities.  The kids are quite motivated to research, read, discuss, and write about all things butterflies!  I provide lots of opportunities for as many curriculum areas as possible.  As you do this unit with your students, I am sure you will think of many ways to incorporate your content standards!


Read the posters together, then place them in the classroom for students to refer to throughout the unit. 

You could put them on the wall or bind them together to make a book so students can refer to them throughout the unit.


The flip book, circle book, and little book provide engaging opportunities for your student to become increasingly familiar with the metamorphosis of a butterfly.


The photo fact sheets or books can be used for your students to research the butterfly's life cycle using the rough draft graphic organizer.  Then they are ready to write their paragraph.


Your student will love creating this fun butterfly craft with the flip tabs to write the name of each stage of the life cycle.


This is packed with literacy activities, vocabulary, labeling and so much more!


Task cards are wonderful because they can be used in many ways!

  • Centers
  • Scoot
  • Early finishers
  • Extra Credit
  • Quiz-Quiz-Trade
  • Differentiate
  • Enrichment
  • Use with Game Boards


Put butterfly books, directions, and Reading Response Graphic Organizers in the Center for students.

Here are some of our favorite butterfly booksClick on each image to see more. (These are affiliate links.)

The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting is an all-time favorite!

Click to check out my blog post with ideas and a free book companion.

Butterfly Flutter-by Day!

It is kind to set the butterflies free within a few days after hatching from their chrysalis.  I have found that watermelon is a butterfly favorite, and they will often sit on a piece of it and let the kids enjoy them … one last time before they flutter away.

Two little cuties enjoying the painted ladies on Flutter-by Day!

We make little flutter-by butterfly crafts after we set the butterflies free.  The fun craft makes seeing our beauties fly away a little less sad…

This is a joyous unit to do with your students! Make learning about the life cycle of butterfly fun as students engage with science, reading, writing, and math activities. It's packed with great activities that will spark your students' imaginations and stimulate their minds.

This is the perfect resource for your spring, whether you raise butterflies in the classroom or not.

Spring is a great time to learn about butterflies, but it can be hard to find good resources.

Spring is a great time to learn about butterflies, but it can be hard to find good resources.

We've got you covered! This engaging unit contains a wide variety of activities that will help your students learn about a butterfly's life cycle. This pack has everything you need, from reading comprehension, writing, crafts, little books and so much more.


Spring is a great time to learn about butterflies, but it can be hard to find good resources.

We've got you covered! This free butterfly activity pack contains a variety of activities that will help your students learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. 

This fun pack includes:

Get it today!


My name is Peggy Means. I am a child of God and a retired elementary teacher. I loved teaching and creating engaging resources for my students. Now, I love sharing my resources and ideas with busy teachers around the world.

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