Butterflies—they're colorful, graceful, fun for kids to chase, and a welcome sight on a warm summer's day! What child hasn't marveled at how quickly those colorful wings can take flight, gliding from one flower to another? Just watching the way they effortlessly move through the air is more than enough to stir a child's imagination and set them off "flying" around the backyard in pursuit of a butterfly visitor.
During these lazy, hazy days of summer, why not bring some of that butterfly-chasing fun inside with a fun and creative project for the kids? With a few simple supplies, an active imagination, and a free afternoon, your kids can create their own colorful butterfly project using an easy painting technique with surprising results!
To start this project, you will need to assemble the following items:
Cover a large, flat work surface with a layer of old newspaper to catch any spills or messes and to help make clean up easy. If your children tend to be messy, you may want to dress them in smocks or old clothing.
For each butterfly, pre-fold a sheet of construction paper in half (short end to short end). Open each sheet up so you can see the crease made by the fold. This project uses a technique called "mirror painting" where paint is applied on one side of the paper, the paper is folded over, pressed, and opened to create a mirror image on the other side of the paper—much like the natural designs on the wings of a butterfly.
Pour several different colors of paint onto separate paper plates. Explain to your child that he or she will only be painting on one half of the paper (to either the left or right of the crease) and that a surprise will happen on the other side. Provide a separate paintbrush for each color and let your child paint freely on one half of the paper. With this project it is actually best if your child uses plenty of paint to produce a thicker layer than would normally be used (since part of the paint will be transferred to the other side of the paper). Try gobs of color in different places or paint stars, dots, circles, lines—anything he or she would like. Don't be alarmed if the paints run together, that's actually good and will make for a more interesting design.
Instruct your child to be careful but quick in painting so the paint that is applied to the paper remains wet enough to transfer effectively once the paper is folded over. Once one side of the paper is covered with paint, it's time for the magic to begin. Have your child carefully fold the other half of the paper over the side that he or she just covered with paint. Gently press the two sheets together to give the paint a chance to transfer to the other side of the paper. Then, carefully open the sheet. Place the opened sheet, paint side up, on a dry clean surface where it can dry without being disturbed.
Once the paint has thoroughly dried on the paper, have your child use safety scissors to cut out the shape of a butterfly from the paper. The easiest way to do this is to fold the paper in half once again (using the same fold). Cut the paper as if you were cutting out a paper heart but once you get to the bottom third of the heart, stop. Then start a second smaller heart to finish out the bottom of the paper. The butterfly will have a large upper heart-shaped body with a smaller heart-shaped lobe below.
To add the finishing touches to the butterfly, take two pipe cleaners of the same color. Holding them together and starting down approximately 1-1/2 inches, twist them together. Continue twisting down to the end of the pipe cleaners. Gently separate the untwisted portion of the pipe cleaners to form two antennae for the butterfly. Run a bead of craft glue down the center of the butterfly (following the crease in the paper) and gently press the pipe cleaner body into place. If your child would like, the body can be decorated by gluing on small pom-poms, beads, or glitter. Set the completed butterfly aside to dry completely. If you would like to hang the butterfly, simply use a hole punch and add a piece of string or yarn.
With this afternoon project, you can spend some quality time with your child and capture a bit of the magic that summer brings. Imagine—in a few short months the chill of autumn will once again be in the air, and all you'll have to do is look to your child's painted butterfly to take a quick trip back to the warmth of summer!
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