Indonesians Believe Each Person Is An Artist. If You Can Follow A Recipe You Can Make A Toy

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

DIY Wooden Caterpillar and Butterfly Preschool Games


I often look through toy catalogues for inspiration.

These two games are based on expensive German made toys.

I always get as secret thrill when I can make it myself for a quarter of the "retail" price.
Each game cost me way less than $10.00 to make.

I like knowing that these were not made in China under who knows what working conditions.

I feel I have reduced the toxic load on mother earth and the human manufacturer. 



This summer KP discovered caterpillars, frogs, snakes and a whole host of other creepy crawlies.

At first she was absolutely terrified of them.
Now she gets as excited as I do to hold one in her hand in complete wonder. 

We found these one morning on our dill plants.

Sure one can study biology and life cycles from books and models.
Nothing beats taking care of a living thing and witnessing a miracle unfold in real time.

I never knew that when a caterpillar becomes a crystalis it sheds the old skin like a small black husk and underneath is an entirely new creature.

Butterfly Game


I found these wall hangers at a craft store for $1.00 each.

I removed the "knobs" and hanging hardware, filling in the unsightly holes with wood putty.


Next I sanded the butterflies, painted the bodies, traced some hearts and painted  them with my secret stain formula (oil, water, and acrylic paint).


I removed the unwanted "extras" from some "on sale" dragonflies, sanded and painted the bodies.


I sanded and painted some wooden hearts.


Lastly I painted the backs.
I was not able to get a smooth repair over the holes this time so I used some fabric hearts as a solution.

I covered all the game pieces in acrylic semi-gloss varnish for durability.

In hindsight I should have used tape to mask off areas as I painted them.  This would have saved me time a lot of time and "mistakes". Oh well, live and learn. Projects like these games leave me with a greater appreciation for those who manufacture and paint small items. I can't imagine doing it hour after after for days on end without being left with failing vision and good humor. 


How to play the game

Each player gets one butterfly, one body , and 4 hearts of each color.

Individuals take turns rolling the die and placing the selected color heart onto their butterfly.
(the die is just a wooden cube with painted circles on it)

The black circle indicates that a body is to be played.
Where as the white circle can require the player to skip a turn or trade hearts with a friend.

The game ends non-competitively when all butterflies are completed.

Feel free to come up with your own creative rules to adjust the challenge level to the age of the players.

This game teaches color recognition, hand/eye coordination, and the concept of turn taking/following rules.

Caterpillar Game


Drill two holes near the top of an unpainted wooden "bead".
(use a very small drill bit to create a guide hole first)

Paint your beads with matt acrylic varnish so you can paint details on them later without causing bleeding.

Paint two pegs, insert them into your holes and glue.


Paint faces onto your drilled "beads".

Insert and glue shoelaces into the ends of your "beads".

Paint legs and decorations onto a few true beads.


I "recycled" some beads from my Bead Stacker/Counter/Patterner Toy to save time and space.

Make sure to find a dowl that will fit through your beads including space for the knot/lace.

Cut your dowl into the desired "needle" lengths and drill a small hole in one end.

Thread your shoelace into the hole, knot, and cut off the excess.


How To Play The Game

The die indicates which color bead to string onto the needle.

You can decide how long to make the caterpillar's body (number of beads) in order for the game to be over.

A white circle can indicate a skipped turn or removed/traded bead.

A black circle requires the player to thread a "foot" bead onto the lace.

This game is great for teaching fine motor skills to young children.


Here is our caterpillar "surprise" a rare black swallowtail.

There is the moment when a butterfly hatches and you can watch the wings fill with green fluid and expand like the lungs of a human newborn taking its first breath. It is the same physiology.

If you disturb the natural process you risk permanently harming or causing the organism to struggle more than necessary to make the transition.

The Kaz. Princess and I really enjoyed the insect theme this summer and I hope this post inspires you to both explore the world of butterflies and make a game for you child, LESLEY

1 comment:

  1. Those games are a great idea for little ones, and pretty easy to make too. Your real caterpillars and butterfly are stunning! How exciting to see them hatch out!

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