Learning about a caterpillars' life cycle is pretty interesting from a book I suppose but where is the hands on fun in that!?!?! What about buying your own caterpillars and observing their growth each day? It is an easy activity you can do with your child at home that will have a monumental affect on him or her.
The company, Insect Lore, makes it affordable & easy to do this even at home. They offer different packages depending on your needs (if you need the whole kit or just the caterpillars). When I was a classroom teacher, I would order my caterpillars from this company each year & always had a great experience with them. The best part is the caterpillars are self contained in a little jar with all they need to survive for about a week or so, until they go up to the top to make their cocoons. After a few years of teaching, I was able to master transferring them from the jar into their butterfly tent without having to touch them. (I don't do bugs!) I would never transfer them in front of my students because of the faces I would make...haha, so if you're like me transfer them this way. Open the lid, put a strip of double sided tape on the tissue paper covering (the caterpillars are hanging underneath), then carefully peel it off the jar. Too much shaking you might make a cocoon fall & the last thing you want to do is hurt the butterflies in the making or have to actually touch it & pick it up to be placed back in the tent. Then stick the tissue paper to the side of the tent. Then from the outside secure with safety pins.
I can not stress enough the importance of letting your child observe the transformation first hand. Make an observation book together & have them draw what they see going on each day. Even if its' scribbles & lines, have them describe what they drew (write it on a post it so in 20 years they can look at their drawings & know what they were talking about). Take pictures too! Or let him/her take them and add them along side to his/her journal/observational drawings. I can honestly say, this will probably be one of the best experiences you do with your child. Its quality time together & quality conversations to have as a family.
A theme suggest would not be complete with out my list of related books on the topics and neither would a good observation be complete without resources. Check out ButterflyBuzz.com to view a wide selection of butterfly books for children. Many titles covering life cycle, migration, identification, caterpillars, butterfly counts, etc. One of my favorite websites when I used to do my lesson planning was Enchanted Learning. They have 1000 of themes, but click here to view butterfly activities, worksheets, crafts, etc. Their materials are age appropriate from preschool to 3rd grade.
Road Trip! Check out the Butterfly Garden at the Bronx Zoo or if you want to stay more locally, check out Green Meadows Farm. They have a smaller butterfly garden that my 2 year old was in complete amazement over when we walked through it. It was short & sweet but she loved it, so we went in it twice!
Have fun learning about caterpillars & enjoy this moment together as a family!