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Planting a Butterfly Garden: An Outdoor Activity for Kids

In this article, you will learn about butterfly gardens and find out how to plan a butterfly garden planting activity for your kids. You will also get recommendations on child size supplies to help your little one along in planting a butterfly garden.


Spring and Summer are great seasons to get outside, enjoy the warm weather with your child, and come up with some engaging Montessori inspired nature activities.

And there aren’t many more beautiful, fulfilling, or educational activities that planting a butterfly garden with your child.

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planting a butterfly garden pin.

What is a butterfly garden?

A butterfly garden is a planned collection of plants and bushes that attracts, feeds, and shelters caterpillars and butterflies. Planting a butterfly garden can help your yard’s ecosystem and it’s, of course, a very special thing to be able to walk outside and admire beautiful butterflies.

Involving your child in the planning and planting is a great late Spring/Summer activity. Doing something helpful for the environment has many great cosmic lessons and helps teach empathy.

Plants that butterflies love

It a great idea to choose a variety of plants; some for caterpillars to graze on and some to feed the butterflies. Also, you will want a combination of annuals and perennials so the butterflies have food throughout the year.

Child size gardening supplies

There are also real gardening tool sets for kids available. It can take some searching if you don’t want to order the gardening tools online.

I have come across children’s gardening tools at Aldi, K-Mart, and Home Depot. Child size (and functional) gardening tools seem to be becoming more popular in the past couple years, which is making them a little easier to find.

Whenever you are involving your child in an activity that involves sharp tools, it is especially important to have the child size version for them to use. Using child size gardening tools not only allows for a greater chance of success in the task, it also allows for a greater level of safety.

Planning and planting your butterfly garden

Planning the garden

Planning the garden is half the fun for children. Imagining a space wherein beautiful butterflies flutter around colorful flowers can inspire a lot of creative ideas.

Many of the plants that attract butterflies thrive in full sun, however caterpillars and butterflies benefit from the protection from wind provided by trees and bushes. So, you’ll have to pick an area that’s both sunny and protected.

Have your child come up with some thoughts on where the butterfly garden should be, what shape the space should be, and where each plant will go inside that space.

Here are some questions you can ask your child to help prepare them for the activity:

  • Why do we want to help butterflies?
  • Do you think butterflies like small plants or big plants better? Why do you think that?
  • Why do you think butterflies are so colorful?
  • Are butterflies food for other animals?
  • How do butterflies help us?

Planting the garden

It’s time for the part of the activity that kids love the most – planting the garden. This is a fun and sensorial experience that may end in shoes coming off and lots of sifting dirt through fingers – and that’s ok.

Have your child help by carrying the plants and gardening tools to the chosen area.

You may have to loosen the dirt a bit before your child digs, especially if they are very young – just to increase their chance of success in getting a decent shovel full. They can use their garden shovel/trowel or a short shovel.

Have them shovel the dirt into a wheelbarrow or bucket. After the plants are in the ground, have them scoop the dirt from the wheelbarrow and pack it loosely around the plants.

You can section off your butterfly garden with rocks, like we did. If you choose not to do this, it’s still important to put a few relatively large rocks toward the edge of the garden to give the butterflies a nice place to bask in the sunshine.

Setting a glass bowl toward the edge of the garden with wet sand in it is a way to provide drinking water for the butterflies. You can also involve your child in making some butterfly food for them – for a sweet treat.

We finished off our butterfly garden with some painted metal birds we found at the nursery. Each of my children picked out the color bird they wanted.

This was a personal touch each child got to add. It can also be a great garden marker for those who are planting a butterfly garden that’s not sectioned off, especially gardens that are started using seeds.


We ended up with a beautiful little garden that will hopefully attract a variety of butterflies we can all admire. It was a special activity that we can reminisce about every time we go out to water the garden.

Are you considering planting a butterfly garden with your little one? What other gardening activities do you enjoy doing with your child?

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