This is an ongoing summertime activity that will take some time, care and commitment, but the rewards and axis of learning are unsurpassed in this activity. Your pre-school child can learn how the caterpillar turns into a butterfly or moth before his eyes.

The beginning of July is the best month to find some pet caterpillars. Now is the perfect time to start this search which, if successful could become a project that lasts over the summer! Once you’ve found a caterpillar or three, put it in a plastic container with holes punched in the lid, and take a few stems of the plant you found it feeding on. Don’t attempt to feed a caterpillar found on the floor without any idea of what vegetation it prefers.

Ask your child to remind you to check the caterpillar pets daily, as a morning or evening activity that can become part of your daily routine. Using a small note-pad you and your child may document any changes in the life cycle, picture drawing as you go.

‘Blue Peter-esque’ in style, we have compiled this activity, amongst others to set out the practical requirements in a methodical that will, with little forward planning, these activities match the tightest of summer time budgets and can provide hours of endless education and fun.

Keep an eye on the growth of your caterpillar(s), changing the leaves, feeding each day and transferring the size of container shape as you see fit

Transformation Station!

Once it’s in the chrysalis (for butterflies), or cocoon (for moths), it’ll take a month or so to hatch. When it hatches release it in the same spot you found it, involving your toddler in the big release.


You will need:

  1. Small plastic/glass containers – with lids that fit perfectly. Tupperware would be perfect but it would be helpful to choose transparent plastic to see the development of the caterpillar- butterfly cycle, and a lid that you don’t mind making holes in for oxygenation of plants/ventilation for the caterpillars.
  2. A notebook to write down changes, the dates, and any drawings your child may want to make as an annotated guide.
  3. The Butterfly and Moth Life Cycle can be copied and printed from here.
  4. This focuses on the Cabbage White Butterfly cycle, however there are many more available.
  5. (Adult) A Screwdriver or small drill or sharp, pointed knife to make holes in the plastic container lid.
  6. Some Caterpillars! Search your Garden or nearby allotments, woods or parks for caterpillars, but please pick a species that your will be able to sustain with the vegetation they will continue to need as they grow. Lots of Identity charts are available online for both native British caterpillars, butterflies or moths and their preferred vegetation.

Cabbages – Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillars

Fuchsia: Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars (These are wonderful, bright pink, brown and green and the largest common species of British Moth)

Other Super Caterpillar Attractors:

Holly, Honesty, Honeysuckle, Hops, Ivy, Primrose, Sweet Rocket, Verbascum

  1. Place some twigs, compost/earth and vegetation nearby to the environment you find the caterpillar inside the container… Check any soil from your garden for centipedes as these will eat the caterpillar larvae (Never a good morning discovery)
  2. Refill the container with fresh leaves as the caterpillars grow. Keep the Container with the caterpillars in a secure place, out of direct hot sunlight or extreme temperatures.

A watchful set of eyes and possibly a small children’s diary to document any changes, drawing pictures with your child as you go can really hone in on the understanding of the life cycle.

Transformation Station!

Once the caterpillar larvae are in the chrysalis (for butterflies), or cocoon (for moths), it’ll take a month or so to hatch. When it hatches release it in the same spot you found it in. Choose a sunny morning aside to involve your toddler in the big release and feel proud to have conserved the British butterfly and moth population!

For Part 3 Read Here.