The Butterfly Life Cycle for Kids

Let’s talk about the butterfly life cycle for kids! Once you’re done here, be sure to check out a great selection of butterfly activities for preschoolers.

I’ve put together this little guide to help you teach children all about the life cycle of a butterfly. Kids are often so fascinated by these insects, and I wanted a place to house some great resources.

Below you’ll find information about each stage of the butterfly life cycle, as well as additional resources. These include videos, images, songs, books, and more.

Butterfly hanging from a piece of wood, surrounded by chrysalises with text that reads butterfly life cycle for kids

I hope this page helps you as you’re planning your next butterfly theme. Or when your kids are asking a ton of questions about the life cycle of a butterfly. This way, you know exactly where to go for some answers.

You can also grab a simple butterfly life cycle printable at the bottom of this post!

Butterfly Life Cycle for Kids

Now let’s chat about everything that happens between the egg and the butterfly! I have to admit, I’ve taught many children about the life cycle of a butterfly, and it still fascinates me to this day.

butterfly emerging from chrysalis on a leaf as part of the butterfly life cycle for kids

It’s so fun to watch young children as they learn about caterpillars and butterflies. Their enthusiasm and curiosity is unmatched, isn’t it?

How Do You Explain the Life Cycle of a Butterfly to a Child?

There are many ways you can explain the butterfly life cycle for kids. It’s really dependent on your own preferences, as well as the needs of the children you’re working with.

So take my suggestions and pick the ideas best suited to you and the kids in your care. And feel free to add your own ideas to the mix! Below are some ideas for explaining the butterfly life cycle to children.

caterpillar hanging from a leaf about to form a chrysalis

Use Non-Fiction Books, Videos, and Real Photos

Things like real images, real videos, and non-fiction books are very helpful when it comes to the butterfly life cycle for kids. This way, the children can get a good grasp on what each stage of the cycle truly looks like. Plus, there are so many different types of butterflies. Seeing real images and videos can help kids grasp that concept.

If possible, let the children observe the life cycle in real-life! You can order a butterfly kit through reputable places like Insect Lore. Or you can even try watching the life cycle play out in your own backyard.

Plan Hands-On Activities

Extend the learning with these butterfly life cycle activities. They will give the kids the chance to practice the life cycle in hands-on ways.

Keep Your Explanations Simple, But Don’t Be Afraid of “Big” Words

You don’t need to give long, drawn-out explanations to get the life cycle information across to the kids. Consider comparing the butterfly life cycle to that of people.

People change as they get older. From babies to little kids to teenagers to adults. Caterpillars grow and change, too.

Yes, there are many differences, but the overall sentiment is the same. And relating it to themselves will draw the kids in even more.

Green, orange, and black caterpillar on a leaf

Use the real terms to describe the process. Metamorphosis is a big word, but kids can learn it! Chrysalis might be a new word for the children, but they’ll catch on quickly.

Oh, and be ready to answer questions as they crop up. Because you know they will! Having non-fiction books will really help if you get any questions you’re not sure how to answer.

Use Songs and Movement

Kids need to move. That’s very much developmentally appropriate! So find some songs about the butterfly life cycle for kids. I’ve gathered a few for you later on in this post. But you might find even more.

And if you can incorporate some movement, that’s even better! The children can move their bodies through the life cycle, which I know will elicit many giggles!

What are the Stages of a Butterfly’s Life Cycle?

When talking about the butterfly life cycle for kids, we’re usually referring to the stages from egg to butterfly. There are four stages in the life cycle of a butterfly:

  • Egg
  • Caterpillar (larva)
  • Chrysalis (pupa)
  • Butterfly (adult)

The first stage of the life cycle is the egg. Female butterflies lay the eggs, usually on leaves. Eggs can vary in size, shape, and color but they’re always rather small. This stage lasts anywhere between 3 and 7 days usually, depending on the butterfly species.

collage of caterpillar eggs

Next is the larva stage. That’s when the tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. Caterpillars spend a lot of time eating and growing. They molt (shed their skin) as they grow. Caterpillars’ appearances change with each molting – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. This stage lasts 2 or more weeks, depending on the species, available food, and other environmental conditions.

close up of newly hatched caterpillars on a leaf

Then there is the pupa stage, which is a chrysalis. Chrysalises come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, depending on the type of butterfly. Many caterpillars make their chrysalises hanging upside down from things like branches. Other chrysalises are attached in different ways. This stages usually lasts about a week or two.

close up of golden chrysalis with black specks

And finally, there is the adult stage. This is the butterfly. Butterflies emerge from their chrysalises and let their wings dry. Then they’re able to fly. Butterflies come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors. This stage of the butterfly life cycle usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks, with a few species living for a few months. Many will find a mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle all over again.

fourth stage of the butterfly life cycle for kids - orange, beige, and black butterfly on a leaf

Butterfly Life Cycle Videos and Songs for Kids

As part of the butterfly life cycle for kids, I highly recommend using videos and songs with the children. Videos that show various parts of the life cycle are so helpful, especially if you’re not able to observe it in person! And songs get the kids singing (and often moving) as they learn.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly Videos

Let’s kick things off with some videos of the butterfly life cycle in action! I tried to choose videos with real images and footage, as well as accurate information. I also included multiple types of butterflies. Take a look and choose the videos that best suit your kids.

This one from National Geographic is probably my favorite of the bunch:

If your kids are fans of SciShow Kids, they have a good synopsis of the life cycle:

The Ranger Zak Show is a bit longer because it goes into more detail:

This video shows the transformation from caterpillar to Painted Lady Butterfly:

A look at the Swallowtail life cycle:

Watch the Lime Butterfly from egg to adult:

The American Museum of Natural History has a sweet and simple animated butterfly life cycle for kids:

And finally, the life cycle of a Sulphur butterfly caught on tape:

Do you have any favorite butterfly life cycle videos? I’d love to hear about them, if so.

Songs About the Butterfly Life Cycle for Kids

Next up are some songs focused on the life cycle of a butterfly. Take a listen and choose the songs you’d like to use with the children. You can even make some tweaks to the songs, depending on your preferences and the needs of your students.

“The Butterfly Song” by Patty Shukla:

“Butterfly, Butterfly” by Harry Kindergarten:

“Butterfly Life Cycle Song” by Mister Kipley:

“Life Cycle of a Butterfly” by Jack Hartmann:

“Butterfly Life Cycle: Metamorphosis” by Mr. R:

“Butterfly Life Cycle Song” by Carmel Clay Public Library:

Which of these songs are you going to try out with the children?

Butterfly Life Cycle Books

Books are a MUST when it comes to the butterfly life cycle for kids! Here are a few ideas to get you started (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):

More for Your Butterfly Theme

Here are even more butterfly activities and resources to check out! While they don’t all specifically address the butterfly life cycle for kids, they’re still a great addition to your next butterfly theme:

Be sure to save this post for future reference! If you pin it, pop over and check out my Butterfly Activities Pinterest board while you’re there.

Done-For-You Preschool Resources

Let Preschool Teacher 101 save you a ton of time with fully-developed resources that are already ready to go. That way you can focus on teaching and connecting with your students while you’re at work. And you can save your personal time for yourself when not at work!

Our butterfly lesson plan set comes with weekly plans, detailed daily lesson plans, whole group activities, small group lessons, center ideas, book suggestions, editable weekly plans, and related printables. Click on the image below to get your own:

Butterfly Lesson Plans preschool resource cover.
Butterfly Lesson Plans

Here are a few more resources to save you time:

10 little butterflies song pack cover
10 Little Butterflies Song Pack
Camping lesson plan resource cover.
Camping Lesson Plans
World Structures STEM cover
Full World Structures Pack

You can also find us on Teachers Pay Teachers, if that’s your preference. And be sure to join the waiting list for The Pack from Preschool Teacher 101, a membership site devoted to saving teachers like you a ton of planning time.

Printable Butterfly Life Cycle

I’ve got some simple butterfly life cycle cards you can use as you’re teaching your butterfly unit. The printable comes with 10 cards so you can choose the size you prefer. They make great sensory bottle labels – that’s actually how we first used them! You can also use them as sorting cards and picture prompts to discuss the life cycle!

printable butterfly life cycle cards for kids

This free printable butterfly life cycle is available to members of Fun-A-Day’s free email community. If you’re a member, fill out the form below and the download links will be sent to your inbox. If you’re not a member, you can join us by entering your information in the form. Then you’ll receive the printable as a welcome gift!

You can also open the form in a new tab if that’s easier for you.

Collage with eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis, and butterfly with text that reads butterfly life cycle for preschoolers

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