How to Use a Butterfly Garden to Entertain your Kids

In this article you’ll be learning:

  • How to create an environment that butterflies will want to come and visit.
  • How to distinguish wild or native plants from garden varieties or hybrid plants.
  • How wind affects us.

Moving through the air like a summer daydream, butterflies embody the essence of sweetness and grace. In ancient Greece, the word psyche meant both butterfly and soul. Of all insects, butterflies are the most child-friendly. Their iridescent wings are bright and bold. Best of all, they don’t bite or sting. To lure butterflies to your yard, there are two main don’ts to remember:

Butterfly Garden for Kids

Don’t use pesticides. You will have to find another way of controlling garden pests, because pesticides are just as lethal to butterflies as they are to slugs.

Don’t plant hybridized flowers. Despite their vivid colors, the showy hybrids you see being sold each spring at garden centers, supermarkets and discount stores are not tasty to butterflies.

The do’s for butterfly gardens include food, water, and shelter:

Plant wildflowers. In early spring scatter a variety of wild-flower seeds that are native to your region. Make sure you plant them in a sunny location. Butterflies respond to the most colorful flowers and prefer blossoms that are shaped like trumpets or tubes. Check your local garden center for wildflower mixes or order directly from seed catalog companies that sell plants recommended for your region.

Keep water available. Set out and regularly replenish a very shallow container of water. Create islands for the butterflies to rest on by dropping in a few pebbles. Butterflies will drown if the water is too deep.

Plant a windbreak. Tall flowers such as hollyhocks and phlox provide shelter from the wind and a secure place for butterflies to lay their eggs.

Provide some foot warmers. Install a few dark-colored rocks. As insects, butterflies are cold blooded and like to sunbathe on smooth, warm surfaces.


Butterfly dance

Watch a butterfly feed. Notice how it uncoils its mouth and uses it like a straw to sip nectar from a flower. Imitate the fluttering flight of a butterfly, how it chooses a flower, and how it drinks. Notice the butterfly’s coloring and how it shifts when you look at it from different angles. This is iridescence. With crayons, markers, or colored pencils, draw a picture of one of the butterflies you see. Be sure to include the upper and lower wings, the vein patterns, the legs and the antennae. Notice the knob on the end of each antenna.

Moth or butterfly?

Can you tell a moth from a butterfly? Ask yourself some of these questions to tell the difference. At what time of day did you see it? Butterflies are diurnal; they fly during the daytime. Moths are nocturnal; most of them are night fliers. Is the way they hold their wings different? Butterflies hold their wings together and straight up. Moths usually stretch their wings out parallel to the ground. Do their antennae look different? A butterfly antenna has an elongated knob on the end of it. Moths’ don’t. Moth antennae are often short, featherlike, curved, or tapering.

Wildflower hike

Purchase a small wildflower guide for your region and tote it along on hikes in your garden or near home. It will help you identify plants when they are in bloom and later by their seed pods. Talk about differences and similarities between wildflowers and wild fruits, which are native plants, and their hybridized cousins in your garden. For example, some of your backyard flowers may have come from these or similar wild species: Alpine forget-me-not, sticky aster, hooked-spur violet, marsh marigold, showy mountain daisy, or Colorado columbine. Fruits and berries you might find along a hiking trail include: wild plum, strawberry, choke cherry, blueberry, and red elderberry.

Stone search

Go looking for smooth stones to place in your butterfly garden. Good places to find water-worn stones are in the streambed of a rocky creek or along a lakeshore. Discuss how wave action and flowing water can wear away something as large and as hard as a boulder. Do the following experiment on a cool day. Place the smooth, dark-colored rocks alongside some rough-textured, light-colored rocks in the sunshine. After a time, feel how much warmer the dark, smooth stones are. If you’re lucky, your stones will attract butterflies.

Windy walk

Take a walk on a windy day. Face into the wind. What direction are you facing? If you are facing north, that is a north wind. If you are facing west, it is called a westerly wind. A wind is named for the direction it comes from, not for where it is going.

Find a good windbreak for the family to take shelter in. Compare what it feels like to stand on the leeward side of a hedge or a grove with how it feels on the windward side.

Look up at the clouds. Are they moving in the same direction as the wind is blowing down where you are standing? Winds aloft can blow in a different direction from surface winds.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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