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Hungry for Learning – The Very Hungry Caterpillar Craft and Activity
My kids, my students, and yes, I’ll admit, I too love to read Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” While hearing a story is always enjoyable, children will feel much more engaged when they do a hands-on craft or activity that ties in to the lesson. This favorite childhood story lends itself to discussions on so many different topics. I do this project with my preschool class in the beginning of the year when we start using our calendar and talking about the days of the week during circle time. We take it out again when we hit the food and nutrition unit, and again when working on numbers, counting and sequencing. It’s also useful for an animal unit because it teaches about the life cycle of the butterfly.
For this craft I start with a big caterpillar cut-out and cut a big circle where the caterpillar’s mouth would be. Then I let the children get to work on it. Since the caterpillar is 16″ wide, several students can decorate it at once, using crayons, paints, and collage materials. When the caterpillar is finished, I staple or use paper fasteners to attach a mesh shopping bag or a bag from oranges or potatoes to the back of his mouth. Next, each child gets to make one of the foods the caterpillar eats in the story. They paint styrofoam balls and eggs to look like fruits such as apples, oranges, and plums. Finally we make a beautiful butterfly out of fancy specialty paper. If I run out of time or the kids run out of steam, we use a ready-cut felt butterfly (decorated by my loyal at-home helpers) instead.
Now comes the real fun. One child can tell the whole story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, acting it out with the props we’ve made as he goes along. Or each child can take a turn reading a page from Eric Carle’s book and “feeding” the caterpillar – popping the food through his mouth and watching it get caught in the net. This is also a great show to put on for parents and siblings at an end-of-year performance.
The great thing about this craft is that our Very Hungry Caterpillar and coordinating props can be used in different units throughout the year, emphasizing different areas of my curriculum: When learning about numbers, we focus on how many of each fruit the caterpillar eats. At another point, the activity revolves around the days of the week. It always spurs animated discussion in our food and nutrition unit when the children discuss what the caterpillar should or shouldn’t have eaten and why he got a stomachache. And left on a shelf in the play area (or, of course, at home, where my kids have insisted on making their own Very Hungry Caterpillar), I have found that children gravitate to this activity again and again to retell and act out Eric Carle’s wonderful story during their free play.