Homeschooling

Caterpillars and Colors Unit for prek-1st graders

The Briscoe kids at the beginning of the unit, practicing Cosmic Kids yoga and setting up their caterpillar activity corner

Introduction and How to Use This Activity List

A few things I have learned over the last few years of being a teacher and then a homeschooling mom is that every kid is different and moves at a different pace for different subjects and has a variety of interests, so keep that in mind while planning your month of education for your students. Sometimes an activity is a flop and that is okay, you learned something about yourself and your child/student just then. Don’t push too hard, just save it for later (or if it’s truly a huge flop, you never have to try that again, haha). 

Secondly, I have learned that my kids have a lot more fun learning and retain more information when I do a theme for the month or a unit study AND I have a lot more fun teaching things in a theme. Things make more sense and gathering the materials are easier to do when everything is themed.

That being said, we had a lot of fun learning about caterpillars and colors this month and since it was SO FUN I wanted to type it up so I could share it with my friends. My kids are ages 2-7 and these activities fit that age range really well. Some are more for younger kids, some more for the older. 

For preschool homeschooling in general, my goals for each day are to: read to them (and the older kid should read to me), go outside, do some sort of self-directed learning time (build with legos, listen to an audiobook, color, whatever it is, they do it on their own), do our Bible study/devotion, and for the prek kids we do some sort of letter practice each day (we usually do one letter a week or until it is relatively mastered and then move to the next one). 

Beyond that, I pick 1-3 of these activities to do each day. Sometimes the activity we choose counts as one of the above things (like if we read a book about caterpillars, that counts as reading to them) and other times, it’s in addition to what we are doing. Whatever you choose, have fun with it. I have found it’s a lot easier on me if I choose a day and prep or gather all the materials I need for at least the week ands sometimes for the whole month and set them out. Then, it’s super easy to just choose what we’re going to do for the day because I can just grab what I need out of my basket of supplies and go with the flow. I try to plan out, loosely, what activities we will do each week, but life happens sometimes and sometimes we never get to something because we just never want to sit for it. 

For the older students, I have added daily handwriting practice/copy work, math practice, and phonics to the above. One or twice a week we will read a history text, a science text, do an art project, or do a music-based lesson. For my kindergartner, he has added handwriting, phonics and math to our regular activities, but doesn’t do all of those each day. 

Occasionally we read poetry together. We try to memorize verses. We do chores. But most of all, I try to encourage wonder at God’s creation, a joy of learning and reading, and the framework that our family is a team and we work together and love one another.

Good luck! Have fun! And let me know if you have any questions! 

Activity List for Caterpillars and Colors:

Caterpillars

  1. Read the book A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
  2. Create “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” wall display using 8 paper plates. This activity can be broken down between several days and something students can work on while you do read aloud, Bible study, or work with older students. 
    • Have the children paint 7 plates green and 1 plate red 
    • Cut out two large yellow ovals, two smaller green ovals, one small blue circle, and two blue “antennae” to glue to the red plate to create a face for the “Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Depending on the age of the students, you could cut out for them, provide dashes for them to cut along the lines, or allow them to cut the shapes on their own.
    • Hang the plates on the wall to create the caterpillar decoration
    • Using the printables from Happy Tot Shelf (you will need to subscribe to her email list) or finding your own fruit and days of the week printables, cut out the days of the week and cut out the fruit. Paste the days of the week in the correct order onto the seven green parts of the caterpillar
    • Re-read the book and as you read, glue the fruit cut outs to the appropriate plate days. When finished, you can practice counting

3) Using a kit from Insect Lore (or other company you choose), order some live caterpillars to “grow” throughout the week and observe 

  • Measure the caterpillars using a ruler every few days and write down your results on a piece of paper. If students are able, you can create a dot and line graph to measure their growth

4) Using models of a butterfly egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly, discuss the butterfly life cycle with your students. You can use bought models from a company like Insect Lore or choose to create them out of playdough or other materials 

5) Read caterpillar life cycle books like the Magic School Bus

6) Letter practice for the younger students:

I utilized my oldest student to help set up the letter C for my younger students. I traced it on cardboard for him and when he finished his phonics work, he cut out the letter Cs for me
  •  trace and cut out several a letter C out of an old cereal box (or other similar material), use a hole-punch to punch holes for lacing 
  • On another C, use dot stickers or dot paint pens to dot the letter C (bonus: you can use green and red paint and stickers to make a caterpillar)
  • Write a letter C on paper and have your preschooler glue pom poms on it to make the letter c, or use paint to trace, or dot stickers, dot paint pens, or even a highlighter for tracing 

7) On a piece of green construction paper (or cardstock, or whatever you have painted or colored green), cut out a leaf shape and write the alphabet around the edges. Allow the student to use a hole punch to “munch” the letters and discuss ABC order. This activity can be extended by writing out spelling or sight words on the leaf and having the student hole punch them one letter at a time, or find them when you say them and then punch them out 

8) Cut out circles out of sturdy paper (can go with the green and red color theme, or just use white) and write the letters of the students’ names on them. Depending on the skill-level of the student, you can either write their name on the paper and have them match the letters with the dots with assistance, without assistance, or have them assemble the letters in their name in the correct order on their own. (Can do all three names or just one). Decorate the circles to make them look like a caterpillar: add antenna, legs, and a nature-background. You can draw the background or use found-objects like grass and twigs and flowers from the yard and glue them on. 

9) Use the “All about me” caterpillar printable from Happy Tot Shelf or create your own to make an “all about me” caterpillar 

10) Go outside and look for caterpillar evidence: look under leaves for eggs, look at leaves for bites/holes, look in the sky for butterflies, look on the ground for caterpillars. If the time of year doesn’t allow for this, go for a walk and imagine what you might find if you were looking for caterpillars, brainstorm ideas for evidence they would leave behind

11) Print out apples with lower case letters on them (or cut out apple shapes, or order apple-shaped paper cut-outs and write on your own lower-case letters) and either: a) punch a hold through them and use popsicle sticks decorated to look like caterpillars and an upper case letter to match upper and lower case letters by threading the popsicle caterpillar through the apple OR b) decorate clothes pins to look like caterpillars and write upper case letters on them and have them “munch/bite” the correct lower case letter 

12) draw caterpillars and butterflies on a piece of paper using a sharpie and have a preschool student:

  • Use dot stickers to “trace the line”
  • Use scissors to cut along the line 

13) Create a caterpillar with a pattern using dot stickers or pom poms and have your student complete the pattern using their own stickers or pom poms

14) let an older student measure the dot sticker or pom pom caterpillars that have been made 

15) Utilize the graphing food race game from happy tot shelf (to make it more interesting, you could each “claim” a fruit as your own to see who “wins” by getting to the top first)

16) use green paint and thumb prints to create caterpillar art

17) Utilize Cosmic Kids Yoga’s Very Hungry Caterpillar video to get your stretches out

18) Use egg cartons to paint and then decorate to make your own caterpillars. These could later be numbered 1-6 and 6-12 (and so on as needed/able) and you can have students sort beans by amounts into each carton space to practice counting and number recognition.

19) As a family, memorize Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and create a display/art piece for your wall. You could write the verse on a canvas or large piece of paper add “very hungry caterpillar” clip art and modpodge or glue it on, and add paint or any of the above artistic crafts 

20) pretend to be “very hungry caterpillars” and play outside (or inside) and gather up good food to eat (this could be play plastic food, paper cut outs, or pulling grass and flowers up from the lawn and piling them up). Send kids out to get one, then two, etc. food items go up to 7 items (or if they are into it, keep going utnil they are “full” or tired) and have them form a coccoon and rest and after a few seconds, have them “emerge” and flap their arms like a butterfly. Reenact this game as much as they would like to play it 

21) write your own “hungry caterpillar book”: hole punch and tie, or staple sheets of paper together and have your student fill in the blanks and draw pictures for the prompts “On Monday the caterpillar ate ONE _____” etc. 

Colors

  1. Freeze some water to make ice cubes and then add food dye to water in separate cups/containers. Give the kids droppers, water guns, pipettes, or something of the like and allow kids to shoot different colored water at the ice cubes to melt them
  2. Make a color book: use colored construction paper or white sheets of paper and color a square of color for each color of the rainbow. Have students look in magazines and cut or tear out pictures of examples of different colors and glue them to each color page. To extend it: write the name of the color (red, orange, yellow, etc.) on each page and have the student trace it. To extend further: have the student sound out and write the name of the color to the best of their ability and then write a story (or dictate a story) to go along with the pictures they find 
  3. Put shaving cream on a nonporous surface (we use an old cookie sheet…or this could be done in the bathtub), add a drop of one of the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) to one side and another primary color to the other side and allow students to mix it up to see what color it makes. This could also be done in the bath by doing a dollop of shaving cream with a drop of food coloring on a pie tin or similar surface and allow kids to have paint brushes to paint the bathtub and mix the colors
    • Extend this activity: after they are done color mixing, have them practice writing any letters, numbers, or words they are learning or have them do their math practice problems in the shaving cream
  4. Use construction paper to make a rainbow chain by cutting strips of each color and taping them together into a chain. Hang from the ceiling or on the wall for decoration. 
    • Extend this activity by counting and numbering how many rings you get in your chain 
  5. Homemade puzzles: make marble art (or simply paint) sturdy paper or old cereal boxes or paper plates and once they are dry, cut them into large pieces to make your own puzzle to put together later
  6. Create a 3D rainbow out of playdough (bonus math lesson if you make your own playdough using one of the many recipes online)
    1. Can also use the playdough to roll out caterpillars and see how long you can make them. 
    2. Can also make food for your caterpillars to eat
  7. Tape off your driveway (or fence, or a window) to make a “stained glass” like pattern using painter’s tape or masking tape. (tape off a square and then fill the square with various shapes by taping off the inside in various patterns and angles) and have students paint or use chalk to color in each shape
  8. Play with rainbow water beads and bury in them stones with letters on them or beads with letters or simply magnetic letters from your fridge (that are okay to get wet) and have students search the rainbow beads for letters 
    • Extend the activity by having them find specific letters to build their name or a word
  9. Create a “rainbow snack” by cutting up fruits and veggies of various colors and arrange on a serving tray to look like a rainbow, have kids enjoy “eating the rainbow” for snack time ( could also serve with a yogurt or marshmallow dip for “clouds”)
  10. Using tweezers, tongs, or simply hands, sort pom poms by color into a muffin tin. I took an old muffin tin and cut out the colors of the rainbow out of construction paper and taped one color into each circle on the muffin tin to give them more direction
    • Extend this activity by also numbering the muffin tin spaces 1-12 and have them put the correct number of pom pom in each place