Are you looking for things to do with the kids in the holidays? Here’s a great nature activity to try in summer – butterfly growing!

It’s a favourite ‘nature immersion’ indoor kids activity, allowing a truly up-close insight into the fascinating life cycle of butterflies, witnessing metamorphosis in your own home. Wow!

Children LOVE it, watch their expressions when releasing the butterflies.

Image of close up of child's captivated face looking at sitting butterfly on child's hand

What Is Butterfly Growing?

Butterfly growing is literally facilitating the life cycle of real caterpillars as they transform into butterflies before release into the wild, using a kit with live caterpillars and special food, grown in a habitat net.

Toddlers learn how true The Hungry Caterpillar story really is and urban/suburban families with small (or no) gardens can participate too, as most of the ‘growing’ happens in the house – provided the butterflies are released near pollinating plants they should thrive.

Large kits are available for schools, and gardeners can use them for pollination in greenhouses and polytunnels.

These are butterflies I’ve photographed in the wild

How To Grow Butterflies

A friend bought our butterfly kit and we’ve successfully grown three lots of Painted Lady caterpillars as well as lending the habitat net for friends to use too.

1. Buy Caterpillars

A lidded pot arrives in the post, (or box if you buy the full kit), filled with ‘sludge’ (caterpillar food) and 5 or 6 tiny live Painted Lady caterpillars. Watch them munching until they become chrysalides hanging from the lid of the cup.

Image close up of plastic lidded pot containing caterpillars, chrysalides and brown sludge caterpillar food

2. Move Chrysalides to Habitat Net

After a couple of days move the chrysalides and lid to the ‘chrysalis station’ and secure in your butterfly habitat net.

3. Meet Your Butterflies

Wait and watch as the chrysalides transform into butterflies!

4. Release Into the Wild

Feed with fruit and nectar then release into the wild after 2 or 3 days.

Image of girl in dress unzipping cylindrical butterfly net to release dark coloured butterfly

The whole process takes two to three weeks and is truly captivating.

If you’re lucky you might get to see the butterflies actually emerge (though ours always sneak out over night!)

The below photo is not long after emergence but we missed the actual event! Notice how soft and crumpled the butterfly wings are at first.

Image of orange and black butterfly looking squashed or crumpled with empty chrysalis behind

We grew 6 Tortoiseshell butterflies from caterpillars (wild-collected in an area of nettles in a park that were about to be strimmed). These hungry munchers ate a whole stem of fresh nettles every day in order to grow large enough to pupate so it was quite a responsibility! Thankfully all of them survived to be released into the wild.

I don’t recommend taking caterpillars from the wild as you not only need to know exactly what they eat (often just one plant for one species), you need to have a ready and fresh supply of it and this could mean removing protected wildflower species from the wild.

Do a Butterfly Survey

If you don’t want to grow butterflies but have lots in your area, why not encourage the kids to identify and record what they see in a garden butterfly survey with Butterfly Conservation?

Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Alternatively, attract butterflies to your own garden by creating a wildlife area with wildflower seeds and pollinator(bee and butterfly)-friendly plants. You don’t need much space – we plant wildflower seeds in a recycled wheelbarrow container, which looks pretty as well as being great for conservation. Find out how to make one here: create a mini meadow in a wheelbarrow


Image of girl-with-blue-painted wheelbarrow-full-of-wildflowers

Things To Do In The Holidays

For more indoor and outdoor activities for your kids in the holidays read: –

Home17 ways to connect with nature at home

Gardengo wild in the garden – 25 ways to connect with nature in your garden or yard

Outdoors30 super cool ideas for outdoor family fun

Why? – 11 reasons to get into the wild now

Take a look at Su’s lovely blog Ethan & Evelyn for more ideas to entertain your wild kiddos.

Get The Gear

Click images to find the best prices at Amazon.


(to purchase caterpillars at the correct time of year)

(to purchase live caterpillars direct to your door)