By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center

Planting a butterfly garden with your little one is a great way to enjoy the warmer temperatures and spend quality time together. Your child will learn every step of the process, from picking out plants to digging in the dirt. For children with sensory issues, make sure to purchase a child-size pair of gardening gloves so he can dig comfortably.

Planting a garden together not only teaches your child how a plant grows from a seed/seedling to a flower, but focusing on planting butterfly-friendly flowers is a great way to enjoy your garden even after the flowers bloom.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Space in your yard for a small garden or raised plant bed
  • Shovel
  • Seeds/seedlings that butterflies enjoy
  • Watering can


  1. Scout out a sunny location in your yard that does not get too windy. Make sure there are also shrubs nearby for chrysalis’ to attach.
  2. Visit a local garden center and ask which plants grow best in your area. Try to choose a combination of perennial and annual plants. Lilacs, buddleia or “butterfly bush” and glossy abelia are all good choices when planting your butterfly garden. Important reminder – make sure to discuss the difference between vegetable and flower gardens, especially with young children. Veggies are for eating and flowers are for smelling and admiring!
  3. If your child is interested in attracting certain types of butterflies, ask your garden center which types of plants attract different butterflies. For example, Monarchs enjoy milkweed, daisies and asters, while Giant Swallowtails prefer orange trees.
  4. Plant your flowers and water regularly. Also, make sure to avoid using pesticides as they can harm butterflies. To keep weeds under control, spread mulch throughout the garden and ask your child to help pull weeds.

Gardening with your child is not only fun, but packs some great developmental benefits!

In addition to enhancing fine motor skills by strengthening the pincer grasp when planting seeds and pulling weeds, gardening gets kids excited about science and encourages them to ask questions – how to plants eat and drink? What are the stages of going from an egg to a butterfly?

Gardening also helps increase family bonding and teaches responsibility because your child will help care for these plants.

Have you planted a butterfly garden with your child? What was his/her favorite part?


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