Prepare these supplies:
*Make your paper butterflies by folding your paper in half and cutting out half of your butterfly shape (you basically make a letter “B”).
*Make corn syrup paint by pouring corn syrup in small containers (I love the plastic baby food containers from Gerber) and adding food coloring and mix well.
*Gather eye droppers, art trays, and wet rags.
For the activity, children use the eye droppers to dispense the corn syrup paint onto one side of the butterfly. (You may want to keep the butterfly folded in half, so that only one side is accessible.) The children then fold the butterfly and press on the outside to transfer the print to the other half of the butterfly. (Open soon, or the butterfly will stick shut!) After this simple metamorphosis, the finished product is a beautiful, shiny design, with a line of symmetry along the fold line.
Don’t be afraid to use the word “symmetry” with your little ones. Vocabulary is advanced one word at a time! Simply point out how the pattern they made has been transferred to the other side. Say something like, “That means it’s “symmetrical”, because the sides match like when you look in a mirror!” You can also point out symmetry in their own bodies. Draw an imaginary line down the middle and point out, “one eye on this side, one on that side; one leg on this side, one on that side,” etc. You don’t want to drill in the vocabulary word, but use it a few times, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they pick up this advanced math and art concept!
You may also wish to use a different art medium rather than the corn syrup. That’s fine! Tempera paints or finger-paints would work also. The benefit to using the corn syrup paint (besides the fact that it dries so shiny) is that it gives you a chance to talk about the fact that the butterflies eat a similar sugary syrup from the flowers, called “nectar”. The butterfly’s mouth/tongue, or “proboscis”, actually works similarly to a straw, or the eyedroppers the children are using. So it’s a nice science tie-in with the characteristics of butterflies that you may be studying!