These butterfly life cycle sensory bottles definitely need to be added to your collection of butterfly activities for preschoolers. They’re perfect as part of a kindergarten or preschool butterfly theme!
Your students can use the butterfly discovery bottles to practice sorting, color identification, sensory exploration, and the life cycle of a butterfly. All with these easy-to-assemble sensory jars. That’s a win-win in my book!
The materials to make the discovery jars are dry, which allows the kids to make the bottles over and over again. And you’ll be less worried if the tops come off the sensory bottles.
Do you have preschool themes that you just love teaching in the spring? One of my favorites is definitely all about butterflies. I was sitting here, trying to think about why that is. I mean, I like butterflies as much as the next person. They’re beautiful and just plain fascinating. But that’s not the reason.
You know what is? The kids! Their wild enthusiasm about caterpillars and butterflies is contagious. I find myself getting just as excited as the children. And excitement and curiosity lead to some great questions . . . and have such a positive impact on learning.
In addition to reading lots of caterpillar and butterfly books, we love watching the butterfly life cycle first hand when possible. On top of that, I like to plan a variety of other hands-on butterfly activities that let the kids explore concepts they’re learning.
Related: Butterfly Life Cycle Emergent Reader
Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bottles
You can definitely make your butterfly sensory bottles a bit differently than ours. Or make them exactly the same as we did. Either way, something tells me your students will have a blast. And don’t forget the free printable labels at the bottom of this post.
Butterfly Sensory Play Materials
Here’s what we used to make our life cycle sensory bottles (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Small pasta shells
- Regular pasta shells
- Rotini pasta
- Farfalle pasta (aka bowtie pasta)
- Liquid watercolors
- Empty bottles or jars (we used 16.9 ounce water bottles)
You can definitely make adjustments if you need to. For example, plain rice would be a great replacement for the small pasta shells that represent the “eggs.”
How to Dye the Pasta Butterfly Life Cycle
First up, decide if you want to dye your pasta or not. We decided to leave the small pasta shells as is, but we went the colorful route for the rest of the pasta.
A few years ago, we made a butterfly life cycle sensory bin with colorful pasta. Since I like to reuse materials as much as possible, I kept that bin in sealed bags between uses. So we used some of the pasta from that bin. It was pointed out to me that we didn’t have “all the colors of the rainbow!” so we did end up dyeing some new pasta too.
I prefer using liquid watercolors to dye most sensory materials, but you can use food coloring too. We put some pasta in a small baggie, added some squirts of liquid watercolor, and shook up the bag (after sealing the bag – that’s an important step). Reusable containers work well, too.
Then everything got placed out on trays to dry. I’d suggest placing the wet, dyed pasta on wax paper to dry. If you use paper towels, just make sure the pasta doesn’t stick to the paper towels (I may or may not know this from personal experience).
Just a quick note – every little nook and cranny of the pasta might not get covered by color. I don’t think that’s a big deal, and the children enjoy the process of dyeing the pasta more than a perfect result. However, if this is a problem for you, have the kids grab some paint brushes and let them add a little bit of color to the blank spots. Your butterfly sensory bottles will still be a big hit!
Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bottle Directions
While the pasta is drying, make sure your bottles or jars are clean and dry. Also, make sure your bottles have openings wide enough for the bowtie pasta (or grab mini bowtie pasta).
Related: Butterfly Life Cycle Necklace
It was pretty easy to remove the labels from our Voss water bottles, but there was a little bit of sticky residue. Rubbing a drop or two of lemon essential oil on it dealt with that quickly. Then we washed the bottles with soap and warm water.
Make sure the bottles are fully dry before adding anything to them. Any moisture might make the colors run, and water will definitely spoil the pasta.
Now it’s time to put everything together! We decided to have one bottle for each stage of the butterfly life cycle. The tiny shells are the butterfly eggs, the rotini represents caterpillars, the regular shells are chrysalises, and the bowtie pasta represents butterflies.
If you have all of the pieces together in one bin, have the kids sort them! Either way, have the children add the pieces into the appropriate bottles.
If desired, add a label to each of the butterfly bottles. You can grab a free printable version of the labels we used at the bottom of this post.
Depending on the age group of your students, you might want to seal the tops of the bottles with a hot glue gun. We didn’t bother, but I definitely would for babies or young kids who still put things into their mouths.
Related: Butterfly Name Activities
How to Use the Butterfly Sensory Bottles
There are a few different ways to use the sensory jars. You and your students will likely come up with even more ideas than I have listed below:
- Place the butterfly life cycle sensory bottles out for free exploration. The kids can move them and observe them during center time.
- Let the kids pour the bottles out into a big sensory bin. They can scoop, pour, and play with the pieces like that. Then they can work on their fine motor and sorting skills by returning the pieces into the appropriate bottles.
- Add some alphabet beads to the bottles. Then have the kids be “letter detectives” and find certain letters in each jar. Extend that by having them write down the letters they locate.
- Pair the sensory bottles with number cards. Kids can pull the right amount of pasta pieces out of the bottles to match each card and practice one-to-one correspondence.
- Have the kids keep a tally of how many butterflies (or caterpillars, etc.) of different colors they find in each bottle.
Be sure to pin this post for future reference! And I’d love to hear how you and the kids enjoy the sensory bottles if you give them a try.
Preschool Butterfly Lesson Plans
Let Preschool Teacher 101 save you a TON of planning time with fully-developed preschool resources. We have lesson plans, STEM challenges, digital games, math activities, literacy lessons, circle time songs, and much more.
Click on the image below to get our done-for-you butterfly lesson plans. It comes with weekly plans, detailed daily lesson plans, whole group activities, small group lessons, center ideas, book suggestions, and coordinating printables.
You can also find us on Teachers Pay Teachers. Be sure to join the waiting list for The Pack from Preschool Teacher 101 so you’re the first to know when enrollment is opened next. Members get access to all of our products, as well as some exclusive resources!
More Butterfly Sensory Activities
After you make the butterfly life cycle sensory bottles, try some of these ideas:
- Butterfly Sensory Bin
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar Sensory Bin
- Butterfly Matching Sensory Tray
- Counting Caterpillars Spring Sensory Bin
Free Printable Butterfly Life Cycle Labels
I made small labels for our butterfly sensory bottles. They worked well with the Voss water bottles that we used. I ran them through the laminator before taping them to the outside of the discovery bottles.
The free printable version of these labels are available to members of Fun-A-Day’s free email community. If you’re already a member, enter your email in the form below and have the labels sent to your inbox.
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Originally published April 2018.