Butterflies in the UK

Did you know there are 59 species of butterfly in the UK and that they are one of the most threatened groups of wildlife?
Sadly, UK wildlife on a whole is in decline, of the more noticeable is the butterflies. Their beautiful colours and aerobatics are a noticeable part of a British summer. It is an appreciation of these creatures I wish to pass to my children, one such way is taking my children out to explore for insects and see which butterflies we can spot. Naturally this is easier for some more than others, certainly than for those living in built up areas. There are however things everyone can do to peak a childs’ interest.

Red Admiral, Common Blue butterflies. Kindergardening.co.uk
Whilst out on a nature walk with the children we were lucky to spot a Red Admiral, Common Blue and a Small Copper butterfly.

Planting a Butterfly garden with children

The first thing I would recommend is cultivating plants which attract butterflies, most common and perhaps easiest to grow being the “butterfly bush” (Buddleja) which you might have seen growing from cracks in walls and pavements in urban areas. These beautiful plants are often in pink, purple or white variants and create a lovely aroma. You could pick one up from most nurseries/garden centres, growing them from seed as a cheaper option or even just going exploring and dig one out of some brick work. Bare in mind each option there being more difficult than the last.

Buddleja (butterfly bush)
Buddleja or butterfly bush come in shades of pink, purple and white. kindergardening.co.uk
The Buddleja can be seen growing all over the UK from along river banks to growing out of tiny cracks in the city.
What are the best flowers for attracting butterflies?

For those with a more experienced green thumb Calendula, Ipomea and Petunia are also good choices. As a side note, studies on bees have shown an attraction to contrast such as stripes on flowers so maybe put those striped Petunias away from an open window.
Calendula, Ipomea and Petunia flowers all attract butterflies to the garden. kindergardening.co.uk

Teaching young children the Life Cycle of a Butterfly
Life Cycle of a Butterfly
Life cycle of a butterfly activity sheet for children. kindergardening.co.uk
Children can enjoy colouring in the different stages of the butterfly lifecycle with this printout.

Butterfly Life Cycle Sheet Download

Perhaps one of the most interesting details about the butterfly to young children is its’ life cycle. How bizarre and incredible this must seem to new learners to see a creature undergo such a transformation, I know my daughter was particularly amazed. We had bought her a kit from InsectLore, a company that is popular amongst home educators and teachers. We watched her stare at the caterpillars every day getting bigger and bigger, she saw them build their cocoons and eventually they hatched and she got to release them. It was an amazing experience and to be able to watch the transformation was fascinating. I would highly recommend growing your own butterflies as it was surprisingly easy and conveyed the transformation considerably better than all the illustrations could. The kits are usually affordable but they are simply a cloth net and some caterpillars. If you feels adventurous and thrifty you might find some caterpillars or eggs on ebay, gumtree or outside, though I would assume a seasonal peak.

Fun Butterfly Facts for Children

Some interesting facts for children to learn about the butterflies:

  • The most common butterfly in the UK is the Cabbage White.
  • Monarch butterflies can travel 4000km in migration to somewhere warm.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet and smell with their antennae.
  • Some species of butterfly live for a week while others can live for a year.
  • Butterflies leaves their eggs on leaves their caterpillar offspring will like to eat. They stick the eggs to the underneath of leaves with glue, to hide them from predators.
  • Butterfly wings are covered in tiny coloured scales.
  • Being an insect, Butterflies have six legs and four wings. Moths however have a frenulum which connect the two wings on each side to allow them to act as one.

Butterfly Activities 

Making Cocoons. Butterfly life cycle childrens' activity. kindergardening.co.uk
A simple Butterfly life cycle activity for smaller children

This activity is perfect for younger children who may not have the patience for a time consuming craft. This is very simple and is a great way of introducing the concept that the butterfly emerges from the cocoon.
You will need:

  • Empty toilet rolls
  • Butterfly template which you can Download 
  • Crayons or felt tips


  • Decorate and cut out the butterfly template
  • Fold the butterfly and put into the empty toilet roll (cocoon)
  • Hide the cocoon in the garden and let your child search for it
  • Once they have found the cocoon they can help unfold the butterfly as it emerges from the cocoon.
Make your own Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Butterfly Life Cycle, Childrens activity. kindergardening.co.uk
This is a fun, hands on activity that is a great way of teaching children the life cycle of a butterfly, my daughter really enjoyed doing this and I’m sure yours kids will too.
You will need:

  • Paper plate
  • Pen
  • PVA Glue
  • Leaves
  • White bean (egg)
  • Rotini Pasta (caterpillar)
  • Conchiglie Pasta (cocoon)
  • Farfalle Pasta (Butterfly)


  • Divide your plate into 4
  • Part 1. Stick the white bean on the leaf
  • Part 2. Stick the Rotini Pasta on a leaf
  • Part 3. Stick the Conchiglie Pasta on the plate and draw a branch
  • Part 4. Stick the Farfalle Pasta on the plate.

Incase you missed the link above, we have created a FREE Butterfly Life Cycle sheet for you to Download.

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