Each year, our family celebrates the migration of Monarch butterflies. The tradition began with an email from my parents, sharing that they had seen an announcement for the annual Welcome Back the Monarchs festival at one of our favorite state parks on a trip down the coast. My husband and I have strong ties to the area and our family loves to educate our children in natural and special ways. Attending the Monarch festival for the first time birthed an interest in and real connection to butterflies for all of us, most especially our children.
Butterflies, like so many plants and a number of animals, are markers of time, of weather, and of the season. Each autumn, as the weather cools in the north, these tiny creatures fly south, in search of warmer weather. Not all butterflies do this, but Monarch, Mourning Cloak, Painted Lady, and American Lady butterflies are among those that do.
Inviting butterflies into your garden is such a lovely way to experience the wonder that watching these small creatures produces. What you plant will depend on which butterflies are native to your area. When we visit the mountains and the wildflowers are in bloom, the Paintbrush, Columbine, and Mariposa Lily (Mariposa means butterfly in Spanish) all attract butterflies, most especially the Chalcedon Sierra. Where we live, planting milkweed beckons the Monarchs. One needs to consider planting flowers to attract caterpillars as well as butterflies.
Our children have learned a lot about butterflies through arts and crafts. There have been several crafts that have stuck with them, including the creation of stiff craft paper butterfly wings (with string “backpack” style straps), butterfly book markers, and paper butterfly finger rings. Below is one of my daughter’s favorite projects; a wool felt butterfly napkin ring.
To make your own, simply take three scraps of wool felt. Make two butterflies, one slightly bigger than the other. Cut a slit into the center of both. Cut a third piece into a bone shape. The big butterfly is about 3 inches wide, the small butterfly is about 2 inches wide, and the bone is about 6 inches long. Stack the smaller butterfly on top of the bigger butterfly. Fold the bone in half and, from the top, insert the fold through the slits in the stacked butterflies. Pull it through and the result is a felt napkin ring with three stacked butterflies!
Notes: While our family has learned a lot about butterflies through California State Park educational resources, I have found the following websites to be informative as well: The Butterfly Site and Learn about Butterflies.
Several of our favorite children’s books about butterflies that we read together are:
Hanna’s Butterfly by Marie Vinje and Gail L. Suess
Butterflies Fly by Yvonne Winer
Monarch Come Play with Me by Ba Rea
Nicola Alesandrini lives in urban, coastal Northern California with her husband and two young children. She creatively lives lightly with less as a means to creating balance and simplicity. She spends her days chasing kids, enjoying bits of nature, avoiding laundry, and nourishing simple dreams. She writes and crafts anywhere she can weave it in and blogs about it all at Creative.Light.Less.(formerly Which Name?).