Metamorphosis is the process by which animals radically change their form and shape as part of their life cycle. To your child, seeing a tadpole turn into a frog or a caterpillar morph into a butterfly might seem more like a magic trick than science until she explores it deeply. Offer her the opportunity to understand metamorphosis with some engaging, hands-on activities.
Read, Watch and Sing
Find books and documentaries about metamorphosis that include high-quality graphics to bring the subject to life. "Animal Go-Round," by Johnny Morris, includes colorful photographs of the life cycle of several common animals, including the metamorphosis process of butterflies and frogs. Sing along with Lucas Miller's humorous song "Metamorphosis" -- on his "Animals Rock" DVD -- as he recounts a tadpole's transformation. Show your child nature documentaries that feature time-lapse video footage of a caterpillar's journey.
Create a metamorphosis wheel using a paper plate. Have your child draw the steps of a caterpillar or tadpole metamorphosis on index cards and glue them to the edges of the paper plate in order. Ensure that they will each be right side up as the wheel spins. Punch a hole in the center of the plate with the tip of a pair of scissors and help your little one stick a brad through it. Make another hole in a piece of card stock and put the brad through that one too, helping your child to attach it securely. The paper plate is now free to turn and show the stages of metamorphosis.
There's nothing like having your child see metamorphosis with their own eyes. During spring or early summer, have your child go on a caterpillar hunt in your backyard or another natural environment. Place the caterpillars in a clear plastic containers with some small twigs and fresh leaves and cover the opening with netting. Ask your child to check on the creatures every day, observing any changes and adding more leaves as needed. Once the chrysalis is formed, you can expect a butterfly in 10 to 14 days, according to the Children's Butterfly website.
Children learn by playing, so encourage your little one to incorporate metamorphosis into her free time. At the swimming pool, have her pretend to be a tadpole that slowly grows legs and becomes a frog. After bath time, wrap your child up in a towel and make believe she's in a cocoon. Buy her toy caterpillars, butterflies and chrysalis figurines and set them up on her toy shelf for her to act out. Stock her dress-up basket with butterfly and frog costumes and masks.