Butterfly Elementary Art Project

Getting Started: Butterfly art projects are a wonderful way for children to learn about the concept of symmetry in art. This is a nice art project to do in the spring time. Before I start doing this art activity I like to read the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle to my art students. At the end of the book, there is a beautiful picture when the caterpillar transforms in its cocoon into a beautiful butterfly.

Art Technique: Painting with tempra

Grades: Preschool and early elementary


About this project: A good reference book for art teachers and art therapist for this art activity is: Children And Painting by Cathy Weisman Topal.

Materials needed:
  • Cardboard (size 35cm x 50cm)
  • Paper
  • Tempra paints
  • Plastic plates
  • Paper towels
  • Newspapers
  • Paint brushes of different sizes
  • Plastic containers for water
  • Glue
  • Wooden cubes, or paper cubes
  • Glitter
  • Pencils, erasers and sharpeners
Part 1
  1. On plastic plate, squeeze a small amount of royal blue paint and a lot of white. Demonstrate different ways of painting a sky and mixing the paints to get light and dark blues.
  2. Have students write their name in the corner of the board and date. Turn over and paint the sky. Put aside to dry.
  3. Demonstrate making the butterfly. Begin by folding the paper in half. With the pencil draw half of the butterfly. Now your student will do the same. Cut out half the butterfly while folded. When done open, and you now have a symmetrical butterfly.
  4. Take a close look at any butterfly pictures, noting the various spotting and lines.
  5. Demonstrate adding a line to one side of the butterfly, and the same line to the other side of the butterfly. Add more lines, and other spots in the same way.
  6. Now hand out a variety of paints, one color and one brush per plate or paint cup.
  7. Demonstrate painting on one half of the butterfly, folding it in half, and opening it up again. One side might be lighter than the other side, so can paint a 2nd coat on the butterfly.
  8. Put aside to dry.
  9. Once the artwork is dry, stack them and put heavy books on top to flatten out.
Part 2
  1. On day two of this project, glue the butterfly onto the cardboard in a raised fashion, with little wooden cubes glued between the board and the butterfly or a thick small pieces of cardboard between the two.
  2. Make a mixture of 2 parts white glue and 1 part water, and mix.
  3. Demonstrate painting glue, then sprinkling glitter on different parts of the butterfly, always remembering to do one side, than the other.
Part 3
  1. When glitter is dry, the instructor may had a shiny finish to the project. It can be a water-based shiny glaze, pre-made. Or it can be a glue/water mixture.
Art Therapy Ideas: Ask your young clients to paint a second picture about where the butterfly would like to fly.

Tips for kindergarten art teachers:
Hang up these wonderful butterfly art projects all around the classroom. You can have the students sit quietly in a circle, find calm music for the students to listen to, and call on students to fly around the room and tell a story about what they saw when they were flying like the art butterfly's they just finished making.