Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

Monarch Caterpillar | Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

Spring is definitely here, and we’ve planted a butterfly garden to celebrate its arrival and prepare for the oppressive heat of summer. No, a butterfly garden won’t provide much shade from the hot summer sun, but it will hopefully entice some beautiful guests to stop by. Hey, if you’re hot and miserable, you should at least have something beautiful to look at.

Butterflies on the Brain

I’m not really sure where the fixation on a butterfly garden came from, but my son was insistent we needed one. For weeks on end. We were still getting the occasional frost, but the little man could not be dissuaded. I suspect Curious George and Wild Kratts had something to do with the obsession. Point is, I guess we will be skipping the vegetable garden this summer and opting for a butterfly garden instead.

When it finally seemed like spring might actually be here to stay, we went out to buy some Milkweed and Lantana (and Pentas for a fun pop of pink). Guess what? Spring wasn’t here. Thankfully we didn’t get around to planting our flowers because a cold snap came out of nowhere.

Planting the Butterfly Garden | Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

Well, we finally got around to planting everything. Little man was very excited. He put on his new gardening boots and a pair of gardening gloves and set to work… digging up the entire garden bed and making one giant pile of dirt. We leveled the dirt back out and talked about to dig flower sized holes. In no time at all, the garden was ready. In no time at all, we had out first guests.

Very Hungry Caterpillars

It started with two caterpillars. That quickly became five. In less than a day, the demolished an entire Milkweed plant. After school got out, we ran out for some emergency caterpillar food. Turns out, so was everyone else. Lowe’s was completely sold out leaving a heartbroken three year old who was very concerned his caterpillar friends would be hungry. Thankfully we found some up the street at Ace. Crisis averted.

We picked up four more Milkweed plants (complete with two complementary caterpillars). We planted one in a large fish tank and the rest in the butterfly garden. Three caterpillars were relocated to the fish tank Milkweed while the other six (yes, somehow we were up to nine very hungry caterpillars) stayed in the garden and demolished the new Milkweeds plants. The one plant was more than enough for our fish tank caterpillars. The garden caterpillars, however, demolished the plants in about 24 hours then promptly disappeared.

It took a couple days, and our garden caterpillars are long gone, but all three fish tank caterpillars are snug in their chrysalises. In about 10 to 14 days, we will hopefully be greeting some beautiful Monarch butterflies. Don’t worry, we will promptly release those Monarchs into nature. Creatures living free and in the wild and whatnot. Hopefully no tears will be shed as they fly away.

Monarch Butterfly Crysalis | Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

Chrysalis and Crafts

Anyone with a toddler or preschooler knows 10 to 14 days might as well be a year. To pass the time and celebrate our temporary guests, we’ve been doing all things caterpillars. This started by asking him to bring home a butterfly or caterpillar book from his classrooms lending library. It was a fun place to start, but I thought it would be fun to get some more advanced books. And reading the same butterfly book three times a day for two weeks was not high on my list of things to do.

To the Library!

D walked right up to the librarian and politely asked “Excuse me, do you have any butterfly book?” It was so darn cute. The librarian looked disappointed and apologized. Apparently a school had just asked for the same and raided their supply. “But we do still have the non-fiction books available.”

Well, der, what do you think we came for? Hello! Science! D was thrilled and the librarian seemed pleasantly surprised by our shared excitement. We fished through the books and found a small stack that seemed age appropriate and didn’t read like encyclopedias. We also picked up a stack of Curious George books while we were there, because, why not!?!

Butterfly Books | Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

We haven’t read them all yet, but we’re already learning lots of fun information. Did you know butterfly poop is called frass? Or that butterfly wings move in a figure 8? Or that their wings are actually clear, those vibrant colors are just reflections from tiny scales? Now you do.

Getting Hands On

Reading is great, but getting hands on is totally my thing. We previously made egg carton caterpillars, so today we made a butterfly. This is possibly one of the easiest projects with pretty minimal mess.

I pulled out a single sheet of white cardstock and folded it in half. I gave D three colors, pattern rollers, and lots of paint brushes and sponges along with instructions to only paint on the one side of the folded page. The hardest part was getting him to paint quickly. He’s a very particular artist and was not thrilled when I prompted him to try to paint quickly.


Once he was done, I added a globby purple line up the middle along the fold. I then folded the paper and asked him to help me rub it and press it together. He sternly told me no and that I ruined it and then went on some rants that I couldn’t catch or fully understand. Hey, this is real life, folks. And three-year-olds can be unpredictable and crabby.

Butterfly Painting | Milkweed, Monarchs and Masterpieces: The Tale of a Preschooler and His Butterfly Garden

He eventually came around and helped me rub the paper then open it back up. Again, not thrilled at first. After he ran off and pouted a little, he came back to ooo and aww and coo at his beautiful butterfly painting. We may attempt this again tomorrow. Now that he knows the process, I’m hoping he’ll find it a bit more enjoyable the second time around.

The Waiting Game

We’re a couple days in to the chrysalis phase already. Hopefully we will get to witness a successful metamorphosis for all three caterpillars, but only time will tell. It would be nice to see out caterpillars grow and become our the first visitors to our new butterfly garden.

While we wait, we’ll read and reread our butterfly books and probably attempt a few more butterfly themed crafts. With any luck, in 10 to 14 days I’ll be sharing some photos of beautiful Monarch butterflies. Wish us luck!


Military spouse and mom of one with experience in marketing, volunteer management and, most recently, web design, project support and copy writing. Currently leveraging a BS in Marketing from a top University to negotiate with a pint-sized version of myself. Outside of work and managing the household, I am a serial dabbler and have rarely met a craft or hobby I didn't enjoy. Whether it's painting, volunteering, or running through the sprinklers, there's always some small way to make every day its own adventure.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.