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Spring has sprung and we find ourselves outside admiring blossoming nature. Our 3 year-old daughter can't get enough butterflies. She's fascinated by them, from their bright colors to how they flutter about the yard and how they open and close their wings when perched on a flower. And with a quick slip-on of the ol' fairy wings she too takes flight dashing about outside, soaring as gracefully as a tot can soar, round and round our raised vegetable garden.

Wanting to bring in some of that butterfly magic I came up with this butterfly mobile. It's a simple project that has provided some bonuses like:

Satisfying our daughter's need to paint everything, including herself.

Utilizing man-made and natural materials, thus stimulating talk about recycling.

Introducing topics such as spring, nature, a butterfly's life cycle and more

Encouraging creativity and imagination (our little bug concocts marvelous stories each
night about the butterflies dangling over her bed and how they got in her room).

Providing scissor handling and cutting practice for those small motor skills.

Inducing tingly, sentimental feelings when one peers up at the juxtaposition of baby's teeny
hands next to your unnaturally large grown-up hands.

Step 1: Gather Necessary Materials

For the butterfly mobile you'll need:

Newspaper both for covering work surface and for creating butterfly wings

Tempera or acrylic paints in desired colors (we used white paint to pastel the colors)

Paint brush and dishes to hold paint

Scissors

Q-tips

Iron

Clear fishing wire or any clear string

Skewer or hole punch

Pipe cleaners

A cool stick picked up on a recent hike around the neighborhood

Step 2: Mix It Up

Spread out newspaper and mix paint colors.

Our daughter decided her butterflies should be blue, orange, green and, of course, pink. We're working on primary color mixtures so we made green and orange and we also used a boat-load of white paint to create pastel color...How spring of us!

We used a few drops of water to thin out the paint making it more of a wash.

Step 3: Painting Digits

Now for some fun!

Paint your entire palm. I allowed my daughter paint mine because it's nice to say "yes" every once in a while.

I found it easier to do one hand at a time and I started with my palms first. It just seemed easier to line up our hand prints this way.

Step 4: Hand Stamping

Once palm is completely painted, take arm across your body to print on the opposite side of the paper. In other words--right hand prints on the left side, left hand prints on the right side.

Make sure when you print to press down on the palm of your hand and all the fingers for a clean print.

We settled for pretty messy prints because we couldn't seem to get a perfect stamp of our hands, but I'm telling everyone that it's cuter that way.

Step 5: One Hand...

First, print right hand on left side of the paper at a slight diagonal.

Step 6: Two Hand...

Then, print your left hand on the right side of the paper. Make sure to line up your left hand's heel so it's touching the first print's heel and the rest of the hand is slanting in the opposite direction.

If you're really coordinated you can cross your arms and print both hands at once.

Step 7: From Big to Small

Now it's time for tot hands! Again, my daughter was in charge of the hand painting, as it should be.

Step 8: Three Hand...

Now this is important! Before you print the kid's hands you need to turn the paper around. In the end all four heels of the hand prints will be touching each other in a way.

For your kid prints you have a choice of crossing arms to print on opposite sides of the paper or just have the kid print on the same side of the paper. As long as the heels are together it really doesn't matter and might save you some trouble if you just have your child stamp straight down.

Step 9: Four!

Last print, thank goodness! Same process as before.

After this, it's a lot less stressful. I promise!

Step 10: Time to Dry

Take a paint break to allow your butterflies to dry completely.

Perhaps enjoy a cup of coffee and read a nice Springtime book or two with your tot.

Step 11: Cut It Out!

When the butterfly wings are nice and dry--which takes about four picture books worth of reading--it's time to cut them out. Use this opportunity to work small motor skills with some cutting action. She'll do the major cutting, you'll clean things up with a few detail cuts. Remember, thumbs up!

Step 12: A Few Extra Touches

At this point you might want to decorate the wings. And since butterflies are symmetrical I thought it would be fun and easier to demonstrate symmetry to my three year old by doing it Rorschach inkblot style.

Using a Q-tip as our brush, add a few strokes and dots to one side of the butterfly wings. Then, close the butterflies, press the sides together and open them up to reveal a surprise. Voila! Perfectly symmetrical butterfly wings just like nature made!

Something else to try might be glitter to give them a little sparkle.

After making the inkblots, I felt they were a bit creepy. Why? I saw something in them that reminded me of a bad dream... so I redid the prints thinking I'd just string them up without them. After all, I didn't want my poor daughter afraid to go to bed because she feared some scary marks on the wings. However, my husband insisted they looked nice with the inkblots, so we went ahead with it (someday when our daughter is an adult and in therapy reliving her repressed memories of a terrifying ink-blot monster in her room, we'll know the truth).

Step 13: Take a Hike

While the butterflies are drying a second time, gather up the kid and head outside for a "nature hike" around the 'hood. Locate a cool looking stick that's perfect for suspending butterflies.

Step 14: Ironing Things Out

You might not know this, but painted newspaper irons out rather nicely. With your butterflies completely dry and iron set on low/medium, iron over each butterfly, front and back. Then, fold the butterflies in half with the paint side exposed and iron both folded sides to create a middle crease.

*Forgot to take a picture of me ironing the wings. Probably best that way. Might have proven to be dangerous.

Step 15: Total Body Shape Up

Fold a pipe cleaner in half, we used two because ours were rather thin, and twist 1/4 of the way down several times. Shape two top ends of the pipe cleaner above where you twisted into two antennas.

Step 16: String Em' Up

You'll probably want to reserve this final task 'til your tiny butterfly hunter is in bed for the night as you're working with painted newspaper that tears rather easily.

I'm sure there are better ways to do this but I didn't want to glue the pipe cleaners to the butterfly wings only to have them fall off 2 days later. I wanted to find a way to tie them together.

Using a wooden skewer or hole punch (I chose a skewer because I wanted really tiny holes) poke one hole on the top of the butterfly right in the middle, two more holes a teeny bit underneath the first hole--one on each side of the butterfly wings close to the middle fold and two more holes--one on each side, at the bottom of the wings also close to the middle side.

Cut a fairly long piece of fishing line and do the following:

Lace it up through one of the two middle holes at the top, leave some hanging in the back

Down the other top middle hole

Wrap string around pipe cleaner twice

Back up the first hole you laced

Then down to the bottom hole on the same side

Wrap fishing line around the bottom of the butterfly body twice and up the opposite bottom hole

Take string up to top hole on the same side and pull through that hole

Then up through the very top hole.

Secure the two loose ends by tying them together close to the back of the wings

Make sure to pull the fishing line tight so it secures the pipe cleaner body to the wings. When you pull fishing line through the last hole you'll use the extra line for tying the butterfly to the branch.

Step 17: Hanging on by a Thread

Tie your finished butterflies to the branch you found on your hike. Make sure to space out your butterflies along the length of the branch and tie them at various heights.

Lay down with your favorite little person under your recycled newspaper/butterfly/hand print mobile, look up and admire your work.

Tomorrow go out and get your girl some caterpillars to raise!

*I really like the way the butterflies float from the branch exposing the newspaper side. However, I'm curious to see what they would look like if I painted the backs.
That's adorbs.
I like everything about this, from the recycling to the time spent making it with your little one. Thanks.
Wow...this looks really fun and easy to do. I'm going to give it a try with my little one since we'll be raising painted ladies this year. Thanks!

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