Nutrition in Every Theme: Butterflies

This booklet outlines some easy and fun ways to fit nutrition messages into a unit on butterflies. These ideas center around spring fruits, the nectar that nourishes butterflies.
Nutrition in Every Theme: Butterflies - Articles


A Message to Those Who Care for Children:

Here are some easy and fun ways to fit nutrition messages into a unit on butterflies. These ideas center around spring fruits, the nectar that nourishes butterflies.

Some young children are not eating enough fruits each day. Use these ideas to enhance your curriculum in fun and healthful ways and to help shape the food habits of young children.

Jill Patterson, Ph.D., Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, Penn State

Fruit Filled Storybooks

Oliver’s Fruit Salad by Vivian French (Orchard Books, 1998): Oliver enjoys choosing real fruit in his grandfather’s garden and at the supermarket with his mom, but he claims he doesn’t like to eat fruit until he tries fruit salad.

Eating the Alphabet, Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1989): This picture book encourages you to eat your way through the alphabet by introducing you to a variety of fruits and vegetables for each letter. Excellent descriptions of many fruits and vegetables are included in the back of the book.

Fruits, First Science Discovery Book by Gallimard Jeunesse and Pascale de Bourgoing (Scholastic by arrangement with Editions Gallimard, 1989): This book contains plastic pages that allow the reader to look inside different kinds of fruits. Pictures of where the fruit grows are also included. Over twenty fruits are depicted in this book.

Fruity Activities

Circle Time

Suggested book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Philomel Books, 1983)

Before reading this book, talk with children about how many different fruits help them grow strong and healthy. Tell them that you will be reading a story about a hungry caterpillar that eats some fruits and other kinds of foods. Then read this delightful book to discover what happens as the cater-pillar eats and grows. Call attention to those foods that are fruits. Remind children that we need a variety of healthy foods to grow. Ask children what other fruits a caterpillar would love to eat? What fruits do you like to eat?

Create a Class Book: Eating a Rainbow

Refer back to the pictures of fruit in the story The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Have children name the color of each fruit. Then create a class book about the different colors of the fruits we eat. Divide your class into several small groups. Assign each group a color and a page in the book. Instruct each group to draw and color (or cut pictures from magazines) fruits that are the color assigned to them. Label the pictures. Bind all the pages together to create a class book for your classroom library. Be sure to share the finished book with families.

Butterfly-Fruit Matching Activity

Obtain a simple drawing of a butterfly or use the one provided on page six. Copy the drawing several times and color each butterfly a different color. Find various pictures of fruits in seed catalogs, magazines, or in teaching sources as clip art. Mount the pictures on tagboard squares. Use these pictures to sort fruits by color. Children will enjoy matching all the red fruits to the red butterfly, yellow fruits to the yellow butterfly, and so on.

Fruit Makes Scents

Purchase a variety of powdered fruit drink packets to use as aromatic watercolors. Choose lemon, lime, orange, cherry, grape, and raspberry flavors. Mix packet with ½ cup of water each. Children can use mixtures to paint pictures of butterflies and fruit. A fruitful smell will delight children while they are painting. Extend this activity by having the real fruit for each flavor available for children to taste. Let children have fun comparing smells of the real fruit with the fruit paint.

Nectar Taste Testing

Buy four to five different juices. Try to select 100% fruit juices. Using small paper cups, have children taste (and smell) a sample of each juice. You could make the event into a guessing game. Or you could do a charting activity by letting children put their nametag below their favorite juice. Which was the most popular fruit juice? You may also want to share this activity with parents by downloading and filling out a nectar taste-testing chart for each child. Simply place a small sticker or star under the child’s given response for each juice. If a child does not wish to taste a particular juice, simply write “No Thank You” across the columns.

Butterfly Salad

Butterfly salad is fun for children to make and eat.

Don’t forget that children should wash their hands before handling or eating food.

You will need:

  • Cottage cheese or flavored yogurt, 1 cup
  • Blueberries, 1 pint, or raisins
  • Kiwi, sliced and pealed
  • Apple, sliced in thin strips
  • Lettuce leaves

(Makes about 8 butterflies. One butterfly provides 80 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, and 1 gram fat.)

Set up this activity so children are actively involved in washing, cutting, setting out fruit, and making their own individual salad. Put ingredients into separate bowls with serving utensils.

Have each child make their own butterfly by using a small spoonful of cottage cheese as the base, slices of kiwi and lettuce arranged to look like wings, a row of raisins to form the body, and two apple slices for antennae.

Be creative! Try different fruits and vegetables in your butterfly salad. For example, a fruit and vegetable version might be made with a large lettuce leaf as the base, pineapple rings as wings, a celery stick as the body, and red pepper slices as antennae. Cottage cheese or yogurt and raisins can decorate the wings.

Guard against choking. Watch children while they eat. Young children may choke on blueberries, celery, or raisins.

Talk About the Benefits of Eating Fruit

Experts say that young children can learn that the food they eat is related to their health. Here is some conversation to share with children.

Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and pineapples give you vitamin C.

Vitamin C is important for your skin and bones to grow strong and healthy.

You also need vitamins for healthy blood and a strong heart. Lots of fruits and vegetables give you vitamin C and other vitamins, too.

Celebrate Healthy Eating with Friendship Fruit Salad

Ask each family to bring in one fruit to help add to a fruit salad the class will be making. Let children help by washing and cutting the fruit.

Caterpillar Snack Idea

Turn ants on a log into a caterpillar. Use celery topped with cream cheese and raisins for the body and pretzel sticks for the antennae.See below for more snack suggestions made with fruit.

Build a Butterfly Salad

(Each butterfly provides 80 calories, 5 grams protein, 5 grams fiber, and 1 gram fat.)

You will need:

  • Lettuce
  • Kiwi
  • Yogurt
  • Raisins
  • Apple slices
  1. Put a lettuce leaf on a plate.
  2. Arrange slices of kiwi to look like wings.
  3. Add yogurt to make the body.
  4. Place raisins on the yogurt.
  5. Finish with two apple slices for antennae.

Note to adults: Be sure to have children wash their hands before handling food. You can substitute any of the ingredients for others that children prefer (such as making an all-fruit or all-vegetable butterfly salad). Always watch children during meals and snacks. Young children, ages 2 to 3 especially, are at risk of choking on food.

Family Nutrition News

Caterpillars love fruit and butterflies love nectar! Help your child to love eating these too!

  • Kids like to dip their food. Try dipping apple, papaya, or pineapple slices in vanilla yogurt.
  • Roll–ups anyone? Wrap crushed pineapple plus a thin slice of ham in a lettuce leaf. The crispy texture and sweet taste is a real treat.
  • Try a sliced kiwi and peanut butter sandwich.
  • Fruit salad — Have your child pick out fruit in the store and then help make salad at home. Use plastic knives to cut fruit. Use fruit salad for breakfast or dessert or as a topping for yogurt, cereal, or pancakes.
  • Orange Delight — Use 1 cup 100% orange juice to ¼ cup powered milk and 3–4 ice cubes. Whip in a blender and serve. Serves 2.

Fruit Tips

Buy fresh fruit that is in season, but remember that canned and frozen fruits are also healthy choices for you and your family.

Fruit drink or fruit juice? Many of the fruit “drinks” on the grocery store shelves contain added sugar and very few nutrients. Although these drinks are okay to have on some occasions, juices marked “100% fruit juice” are the best everyday choice.

Can a child drink too much juice?

If you have a picky eater, too much juice or sugar-flavored beverages before a meal can depress her or his appetite. Instead, offer cold water to your thirsty child. At meals, milk is the best choice.

Guard against choking. Watch children while they eat. Young children may choke on raw fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and grapes or nuts and seeds.

Is your child getting enough fruit?

One to 1½ cups of fruit each day is what is recommended for young children. About ½ cup of this can come from 100 percent fruit juice while the rest should be chopped or whole fruit. Fruit can be part of many meals and snacks to provide your child with vitamin C and fiber. Here are some healthy ideas:

  • 100 percent orange juice for breakfast
  • Sliced apples with lunch
  • Banana and peanut butter sandwich
  • Canned peaches in light juice with supper

Let your child choose portion sizes.

Children should choose their own portion size at any meal or snack. So you may have to offer fruit several times a day to reach the total suggested below. Each day, children four to six years old should try to eat at least two of the following. Children two to three years old will eat less.

  • 1 piece of fruit
  • ¾ cup of juice
  • ½ cup of canned fruit
  • ¼ cup of dried fruit

Prepared by Jill Patterson, assistant professor of nutrition, Kathy Gorman and Carol Lebold, project specialists, and Julie Haines, assistant director, Nutrition Links Program. Portions of this material came from Celebrate Healthy Eating, a collaborative project with Dannon Institute (a nonprofit foundation), Scholastic Inc., and the Dept. of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University,University Park, Pa.