Some weeks ago, at the start of summer, one of my daughter's playgroups had a session on bug hunting. We went on a bug hunt for plastic bugs and it was all a lot of fun. The instructor also had a butterfly kit for growing your own butterflies, and a few of the pupae were at the stage of opening up. It was all very exciting, and I thought it would make a nice project.
I bought our very own Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden, and we really love it.
This educational kit allows children to follow their butterflies through their life cycle, and while you need to have it somewhere where you will notice when they are hatching and so on, they are relatively low maintenance pets.
Aimed at children four and over - my two are younger and have enjoyed it in their own ways - children can observe real caterpillars eat and grow to form their chrysalis and then emerge as Painted Lady butterflies.
You buy the kit which arrives as a mesh butterfly habitat - kind of like an Ikea toy storage ring, but with a plastic lid that zips shut - a feeding dropper, activity guide, complete instructions, and food. It also comes with a 'coupon' which you can then redeem to have your larvae sent to you. Obviously these can't come in the box as they are living things.
The caterpillars come to you in a clear plastic cup type thing, with the caterpillar gooey food already in it. The caterpillars then begin their transformation, turning in about 2 weeks, into chrysalides and then about a week later, into butterflies.
Once the butterflies hatch, you can feed them sugar water with the provided dropper, and put flowers into the habitat, and enjoy watching them. After about a week, the humane thing really is to let them go, which is part of the beauty of the project.
You can gently clean off your habitat, and next year, buy the 'refill' for just under £10 and go through it all again.
It's a really great way to show the children nature in action, and I look forward to seeing their understanding of it develop year on year.