Caterpillar activities for toddlers
Have you seen any caterpillars in your garden yet this year? Young children can make excellent bug spotters as they’re just the right height for investigating plants in the garden and their natural curiosity makes them slow down and observe things adults have a habit of rushing passed.
Investigating caterpillars is a fun activity for little children and there are so many different elements of learning you can mix in. Here are some ideas to try with your kids to explore a caterpillar project.
Track down some caterpillars
Head off around the garden on the hunt for some caterpillars. The underside of nasturtium leaves and cabbage plants are good places to look. If you’re lucky enough to find a cluster of tiny white eggs leave them where they are and come back every couple of days to watch them develop and hatch. If you find a caterpillar, take a minute to watch how it crawls along and see if your little one can move their body in the same way.
If you can’t find any caterpillars in your garden you could buy a caterpillar kit. Available online and in some supermarkets the kit contains a pop-up mesh container to house your creatures and a voucher so you can send off for some live caterpillars. Once they arrive in the post you can watch them spin their cocoons and then hatch out into butterflies, before releasing them out into the garden – an amazing, close-up science lesson for your children to see.
Read all about it
The most well-known book to go with your project is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which as well as telling the story of a caterpillar life cycle through beautiful illustrations introduces the days of the week, the numbers one to five and lots of different foods to young readers. Ten Wriggly Wiggly Caterpillars by Debbie Tarbett is a touchy feely book that includes lots of counting. Toddlers and pre-schoolers aren’t too young to be looking at information books along with stories – try the Usbourne Caterpillars and Butterflies or Sally Hewitt’s Life Cycles: From Caterpillar to Butterfly which is designed especially for toddlers and pre-schoolers. You can talk about how the caterpillars change into butterflies and ask your child what will happen to them when they grow up – will they change too?
Make your own caterpillars
It’s lots of fun to make your own caterpillar too and then take it out to play in the garden. To make this zigzag caterpillar, start with a long thin strip of green card. Your child can decorate it however they like, painting, colouring or adding stickers all along the card.
To make the caterpillar’s body fold the strip of card in half to form a right angle and then alternatively fold the two ends of the card back on themselves, repeating the folds until you have used the whole length of card. Fasten the ends in place with glue or sticky tape to stop the zigzag unfolding.
Use pipe cleaners or bendy drinking straws to make antennae and add a happy smiley face. You could take your caterpillar out in to the garden to play or fill a box with leaves to make a garden sensory tub for your caterpillar to live in.