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Home » Sensory Stuff » Designer Butterflies

Interact, Understand, Expand


Designer Butterflies: Interact

This activity is all about beauty!

With a very young child, you can help select the pieces and provide labels and commentary about your creations – "Let's use these big, purple, spotted wings." You can prompt your young child to make choices and to use descriptive language as you create one or several beautiful butterflies.

With a slightly older child who can manipulate the mouse independently, you can ask questions to gain insight into your child's emerging aesthetic sense – "Why did you choose those wings with that color?" or "Which of your butterflies do you like best, and why?" or "What does that background scene make you think of?"

For a more difficult challenge or for an older child, you could ask your child to create as many different combinations of bodies and wings as he can, keeping track of the total number. You might also encourage your child to notice that butterfly wings are mirror images of each other, which will allow you to introduce and explore the concept of symmetry (see the Expand section below for more information and activities).

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Designer Butterflies: Understand

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
—inventor and philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller

This activity offers parents and children the opportunity to try out their own unique combinations of body colors  and wing designs. This activity promotes novel combinations, and allows users to explore their own artistic sense. The ability to generate novel combinations is a hallmark of creative thinking, and honoring our own artistic sense brings in the "personal touch" that is part of setting the stage to allow a child's creativity to emerge.

Another potential in this activity is to begin to understand symmetry – recognizing that pairs of butterfly wings are mirror images of each other, which may be a starting point for further conceptual and creative investigations.

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Designer Butterflies: Expand

Offline Activities

Visit a butterfly habitat if you can. Some zoos or museums operate special buildings or rooms where you can observe and identify many types of butterflies among beautiful plants.

Try Garden Watching. Which plants seem to attract butterflies? Why?

Conduct your own Symmetry Search.

Paint your own Watercolor Wings.

Remember: Use your own creativity to generate ideas that inspire you and your child! To see an age-by-age breakdown of what your child might be ready for, check out the PBS Parents Child Development Tracker.

Online Resources

Inspire your young naturalist with a visit to the Bug Bios Web site. Consider that termites, ants, and bees are often described as making or building things even though we don't think they are individually creative or even necessarily conscious of working toward a goal. The Understand section of the Mural activity also addresses the collaborative side of creativity.

Play Window Boxes or plan a real garden of your own.

Get symmetry (mirror images of shapes) moving at the Kaleidoscope.

Play with the CyberChase Symmetrizer. See how repetition and reflection relate to symmetry.

Books and References

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. A children's classic that colorfully illustrates the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly (ages 1 to 5).

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert. Another beautifully illustrated story of the process of metamorphosis (ages 2 to 6).

Where Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder. A more detailed picture book depicting the life cycle of a butterfly along with information about habitat and species (ages 4 to 8).

How to Hide a Butterfly and other Insects by Ruth Heller. Enjoy the rhyming text about camouflage, insects, predators and habitats (ages 3 to 6).

Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosse (illustrated by Giselle Potter). A young Mexican girl visited the migrating Monarchs with her grandmother; after her grandmother dies, their annual return comforts her with memories. How do the butterflies know their way? Have you traveled to a new place to live? (ages 4 to 8)

The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell Sandved. The author uses incredible nature photographs of real butterfly wing designs to illustrate the letters of the alphabet (all ages).

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