Kids Activities
Butterflies and the Arboretum

If you are looking for fun kids activities, try a trip to the arboretum or nature center to search for butterflies.

Consider making this a regular outing with your kids or grandkids.

My friend and her granddaughter let me tag along on a recent trip and we'll share our outing with you.

We started with the "three mile drive" at our local arboretum, stopping at the new Prairie Wildlife Garden.....a perfect place to search for butterflies.

We saw Monarch, Painted Lady and Mourning Cloak Butterflies...and a hummingbird.

Many plants were labeled which "Grandma" and I appreciated. Now we have some new ideas for our own butterfly garden.

This area is all native plants, which butterflies love and so do I (check out the Butterfly Garden link).

There are many host plants, including several types of Milkweed, Queen Anne's Lace (for Black Swallowtails ), and Mallow for Painted Ladies to name a few.

We searched for caterpillars and eggs on the milkweed, but had no luck.

It was interesting to note what "little eyes" noticed, including a tiny creature crawling on the sidewalk (below)and a Painted Lady Butterfly sunning itself on the patio.

It was wonderful to see all of the beautiful nectar plants in this natural setting - all native to our area.

Now, for the highlight of our trip.....

After we finished the "three mile drive", we decided to go on the wildflower walk.

Along the way we spotted some Common Milkweed. As we were walking away, we heard a very excited voice exclaiming,

"Grandma, I found a caterpillar!"

She was so thrilled, you would have thought she had found buried treasure!!

Sure enough, there on the Milkweed was a fat Monarch Caterpillar.

A few hours at the arboretum turned into wonderful memories for Grandma and Grandaughter....definately a kids activity that will be repeated.

As a "thank you" for the pictures I was taking, I brought over a Monarch caterpillar. The Common Milkweed we found to feed it had some Monarch eggs on it and they soon turned into tiny caterpillars. All have been named and daily updates are given to Grandma and passed along to me. Perfect proof that kids activities can continue to bring enjoyment for a long time when butterflies are involved.

Update: It has been a few years since this outing and I wanted to let you know that butterflies have become a passion for this young girl....her bedroom is even decorated in butterflies! Grandma and granddaughter have spent lots of joy-filled time together raising hundreds of monarch butterflies! This shared hobby has helped them develop a very close relationship.

Here are kids activities to consider for Arboretum or Nature Center outings:

Before you go:

  • Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
  • Research Host Plants for a couple of the more common butterflies in your area.
  • Bring a lunch or snack to have a picnic.

While you're there:

  • Look for caterpillars or eggs on the Host Plants you researched.
  • Keep a count of how many different butterflies you see.
  • Keep the trip short if the child is young and let them set the pace and make discoveries.

After the trip:

  • If you have Monarch Butterflies in your area, find some Common Milkweed (picture above and on Milkweed link) and look for eggs or caterpillars on the plant. Bring it home and try Raising Monarchs.
  • My friend thought up a creative kids activity. She made a special calendar with her granddaughter and using stickers they have marked the progress of each of their caterpillars........different stickers for egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly.