Butterfly Project: Chrysalis

Don’t be daunted. If you have flour, a spoon, a balloon, and some junk mail, you can do it.


  • One un-blown-up balloon per kid
  • Some paper to tear up–junk mail, old drawings, catalog pages…anything.
  • A pot and access to a stove or microwave
  • Flour and water
  • Small bowl and a low glass or another bowl


  • Blow up the balloon to desired chrysalis size and tie it.
  • Your child should tear up the papers to roughly the size of their palm.
  • You heat up the papier mâche. You can try this microwave technique, but it was easy and not particularly messy to put 1 cup of flour and 2 cups of water into a pot on the stove (med-low heat) and stir it a bit till it thickened.
  • Cool the papier mâche to room temperature (a few minutes) and transfer it to a small bowl, one per kid.
  • Set the balloon on the cup or the other small bowl and show them how to dip the rip of paper in till it’s got paste all over it, then slide their fingers across it to remove any excess paste, then stick it on the balloon and smooth it with their fingers.
  • Tips for good papier mâche technique include overlapping your papers, getting about three layers thick over the whole balloon, not getting the creation too gloppy (takes too long to dry otherwise), and leaving a two- or three-inch circle clear around the balloon’s tie (that will become the opening of the chrysalis).
  • Let it dry, probably overnight or maybe even for 18 hours. Some sun and fresh air can help it dry faster.

When it’s all dry, get some greenish paint and have your scientist-artist paint their chrysalis.

When the paint’s dry, use a pin, scissors, or anything sharp to pop the balloon. It won’t be loud, but it’s pretty fun to watch the balloon shrink. It’s easy and satisfying to detach it from the papier mâche.

Now you can cut out a paper butterfly and have it emerge from the chrysalis. Interestingly, butterflies emerge with their wings crumpled. They pump a fluid through their bodies into their wings to inflate them. Like your chrysalis, butterflies also have to wait for their wings to dry before they use them (but they only have to wait an hour or so).

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