Taking flight with coffee filter butterflies

Combine this simple activity with a little learning for ultimate fun

Discovery Place Nature

One of our favorite art projects to do with little ones is creating butterflies out of coffee filters. This craft requires very little preparation and is quite simple while still creating opportunities to learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly.

This activity is great for children of all ages, especially those 3 and up. It will take about five minutes of preparation time, can include up to an hour of learning time and you will also need about 30 minutes for drying those beautiful butterflies.


  • Coffee filter
  • Washable markers
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Newspaper or activity tray to contain the mess
  • Spray bottle with water (optional)
  • Butterfly book (optional)
  • Magnifying glass (optional)


1. Begin by discussing the lifecycle of a butterfly with your little one. Do they know what becomes a butterfly? A wriggly, squirmy caterpillar! Go over the four life stages of a butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. Explain that, during the chrysalis stage, caterpillars go through metamorphosis, or a great change, and emerge as something very different.

Helpful tip: For the most part, butterflies become chrysalises and moths create cocoons.

2. Now is a great time to read a story. There are many books about butterflies, but a couple of ones you might have lying around include The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert. As you read, be sure to identify the four stages of the lifecycle and ask your kiddo, “Which stage comes next?”

3. Time to craft! On a mess-free surface, spread out a coffee filter and let your child color it with markers. Explain that butterflies can be found in many different colors. For example, monarch butterflies are a bright orange, which serves as a warning to keep birds away. For an extra step of fun, incorporate a spray bottle filled with water. Kids love using spray bottles and doing so helps build their fine motor skills. A few sprays should be enough to wet the filter and let the ink from the markers run together, creating new color combinations.

4. Set the filter aside to dry. While it is drying, head consider running outside with a magnifying glass to look for butterfly eggs. Run through the lifecycle with your child once again and explain that butterflies choose special plants to host their eggs. Spend some time looking along the leaves of milkweed and Queen Anne’s lace for small, round eggs about the size of pinheads—these are butterfly eggs! Be sure to bring your phone to help identify the plants you are seeing using the app, iNaturalist.

5. Once you are back inside and the filter is completely dry, work together to bunch two opposite ends together, creating one long strip. Then, help your little one wrap the pipe cleaner around the middle a couple of times. Remember to leave the tips of the pipe cleaner free to look like antennae. Work together to spread out the wings, then hang this butterfly in the window for everyone to see!


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