Metamorphical Magic

meta magicFeed the caterpillar some leaves, place it in a chrysalis, and watch it dramatically emerge as a colorful butterfly! Thanks to the hidden elastic cord, the butterfly appears to soar on it’s very own! It’s a super simple story time project that combines science, art, and magic all in one.

We read Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar by Clare Jarrett (Candlewick, 2008). While climbing trees, Arabella Miller discovers a tiny caterpillar. She makes him a shoe box home, feeds him cabbage and parsley, observes him shedding his skin, and finally watches him spin a chrysalis. When he emerges weeks later, Arabella Miller discovers that he is something quite new! As he flies into the sky, she calls out an enthusiastic good-bye to her special butterfly.

You’ll need:

Begin with the butterfly! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper. Attach sticker eyes (or draw them on with markers) and a smiley mouth (I used a piece of self-adhesive foam, but you can use markers too). Curl an 8″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) and tape on the inside of the tube for antennae.

butterfly front Turn the body around, and punch a hole in the back, near the top of the head.

butterfly backCut the butterfly wings from the template (we used manilla card stock, and it looked great). Hot glue your butterfly’s body to the wings – just make sure the wings don’t cover the hole you punched in the back.

wings from backNow decorate both sides of the wings! I offered glue sticks, cellophane, embossed foil paper, tissue circles, dot stickers, and markers.

When the wings are finished, thread a 27″ piece of elastic beading cord through the hole. Knot the ends together, and wrap the knot with a piece of colored masking tape. The taped knot is an important part of the magic trick, so make sure you don’t skip this step! Your finished butterfly is now dangling on an elastic cord loop, secured with a taped knot.

butterfly on cordWe set our butterflies aside so the glue could dry. Just look at these little beauties (Katie shot this with the panorama function on her phone)…

butterflies Next is the caterpillar! Wrap a toilet paper tube with green construction paper, add some stripes with colored masking tape, and attach eye stickers (or draw some eyes on with markers). Use a 4″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) to make antennae. Attach the antennae with tape.

caterpillarFinally, we distributed construction paper leaves (which we prepped in advance) and brown paper bags. All that’s left is the magic trick! To work some metamorphical magic, load your butterfly in the bag. Keep the taped knot near the front of the bag where you can easily see it.

taped knotNow “feed” your caterpillar some leaves (the kids LOVED this part).

feeding the caterpillarWhen it’s “full,” place the caterpillar inside the bag (a.k.a. the “chrysalis”). Keeping your hand inside the bag, locate the taped knot. Put the looped cord around your wrist.

the loop Bring your hand outside the bag and grab the top. The cord should still be looped around your wrist.

grabbing the bagSay something like “Behold the magic of nature!” Pull your hand away from the top of the bag. The cord around your wrist will pull the butterfly from the chrysalis as if by magic!

the big reveal

Monkey Business

monkey businessWith a turn of the wrist, this gymnastic little money swings around (and around and around) his colorful rainforest branch!

monkey swingsWe read BIG Little Monkey, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Candlewick, 2008). A little monkey wakes up one morning, ready to play, and finds that his family still wants to sleep. He decides he’s ready to be a Big Little Monkey and leave the tree to find some new friends to play with. He encounters a sloth, a parrot, and finally…Sly Boa. The game “curl my tail around in tricky ways” doesn’t sound too good to Big Little Monkey, so he quickly scoots back to his family, happy to be their Little Monkey once again.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Dark brown construction paper for body, hair, and ears.
  • Light brown construction paper for mouth (approximately 2.25″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 oval of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 strip of brown poster board for the tail (approximately 2″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 monkey business template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An 8.5″ x 8.5″ square of tagboard for arm & leg templates and tree branches
  • box cutter
  • 1 brass tack
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • A pencil for tracing
  • 6 – 8 green construction paper leaves
  • 2 small feathers
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by wrapping the oatmeal container with dark brown construction paper. Fringe more dark brown construction paper and tape it to the top of the lid for hair. IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t tape the lid to the oatmeal container closed! You’ll open the container later to secure your monkey’s swinging arm.

Cut the light brown construction paper rectangle into an oval, and glue to the front of the head. Attach the wiggle eyes (using hot glue), the self-adhesive foam oval, and two dark brown construction paper ears. I used the markers to drawl little swirls in the ears and put a smile on my monkey’s face.

monkey faceYou’ll notice that the ears very close to the eyes and mouth. This is so the ears don’t hamper the movement of the monkey’s swinging arm.

The face is done, now for the body! Curl one end of the brown construction paper tail around a marker, then tape or hot glue it to the back of the oatmeal container. Cut the arms and legs out of the template and tape (or hot glue) the two legs and the short arm to the container. I curled the short arm up in the classic monkey “hand in the armpit pose.”

classic monkey armFinally, the monkey’s swinging arm. Cut a tagboard arm from the template, then place the paper towel tube on the round part of the swinging arm. Use the pencil to trace the diameter of the tube onto the template. Then cut the circle out.

swinging arm stepsUse the box cutter to make a small slit at the bottom of the swinging arm (you can see it in Step 3 of the image above). Make another slit in the side of the oatmeal container. Push the brass tack through the slit in the swinging arm:

swinging arm 1 Then remove the oatmeal container’s lid and push the brass tack through the slit in the oatmeal container.

swinging arm 2Reach inside the container to unfold the prongs, then replace the oatmeal container lid.

swinging arm 3The monkey is done, now for the rainforest swinging branch! Cut two tagboard branches (mine were about 8.5″ long):

branchesHot glue or tape the tagboard branches to the very end of the paper towel tube. Use markers to color the bird and the butterflies. The butterflies and green construction paper leaves can be glued of taped onto the tagboard branches. The bird requires just a few extra steps. First, fold the template like so:

bird step 1Using the dotted lines as guides, fold the two tabs outwards.

bird step 2Use tape to attach 2 small feathers to the bird template as a tail. However, when you finally tape or hot glue your bird’s tabs to the branch, make sure the bird is at the very end and the tail faces away from the monkey’s swinging area.

end of tubeAgain, attach the branches and bird on the very end of the tube! Otherwise, those items will be smacked repeatedly (or completely taken out) by the swinging monkey. We had a few tangled monkeys and squashed birds at story time, and had to do some quick repairs.

To operate the monkey, slide the swinging arm over the paper towel tube, hold it at arm’s length, and begin swaying the tube back and forth. As you build more momentum, the monkey will circle around and around on it’s branch. It’s virtually impossible to not make monkey noises while you’re doing this. Go on. We dare you to not make monkey noises!