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Is there anything so glorious as seeing the first butterfly of the season flutter by? We’ve been keeping our eyes peeled as the weather warms, but haven’t spotted our first, so we made our own colorful kaleidoscope (the actual name for a group of butterflies!) from melted crayons.
Armed with a fistful of scrap fabric and old crayon bits, we set to work cutting simple wing shapes and picking out color combinations for our flutter of handmade butterflies. If you’ve never designed your own kind of Monarch, Painted Lady, Viceroy, or Swallowtail, you just HAVE to try this process – it’s perfectly suited to butterfly-making! It’s also a fabulous way to recycle broken crayons and old tees or canvas totes.
The idea was spurred by my friend Shannon’s melted crayon wall hangings. If you haven’t seen the gorgeous decorative pieces her kids made last year, prepare to be 100 shades of impressed. The genius process she used to create symmetrical art checked all of my boxes: creative materials, upcycled supplies, and endless options for color + design exploration.
Buggin’ out over these lovely butterflies? Try recreating a totally different kind of insect with our DIY clothespin cicadas – clip them here, there, and everywhere!
To make melted crayon butterflies you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- A large square of cotton fabric (we used some muslin scraps, but you can recycle an old teeshirt!)
- Broken crayon in multiple colors
- A pencil sharpener, old cheese grater, or similar
- An iron or hairdryer
- Parchment or freezer paper
Colorful DIY Melted Crayon Butterfly Instructions:
- Use our templates, a cookie cutter or freehand drawings to trace butterflies onto fabric
We cut out small butterfly shapes using a few custom-designed paper templates. You can sketch out some simple butterfly shapes, trace around a butterfly cookie cutter, or download our free printable templates to create a variety of butterflies.
*Eco-friendly note: this is a great way to re-purpose old sheets, teeshirts, or similar items!
- Cut out your butterflies
Using a pair of fabric shears or sharp scissors, cut your butterflies out of the fabric.
- Create crayon scrapings
We followed Shannon’s technique for she used for making crayon scrapings and it worked perfectly!
You could also use an old cheese grater or Microplane (just watch your fingers and maybe do the prep yourself beforehand).
- Sprinkle crayon shavings onto one half of your butterfly
Lay each butterfly on its own small square of waxed paper or parchment paper. This is where the fun REALLY begins! Scoop up pinches of colorful crayon shavings and sprinkle them onto one half of your butterfly in any arrangement you like!
You can wing it and just sprinkle away and see what happens, or take a little extra time to arrange colors and plan patterns – you’ll love both results!
- Fold over, cover with wax paper, and iron
Fold the plain half of your butterfly over (along with the wax paper) and carefully iron on a medium heat setting. Though it depends on the fabric, it only took our muslin butterflies about 25 seconds to heat enough to melt the wax crayon shavings.
Hate the idea of using an iron? Use a hairdryer on the high heat setting instead!
- Open and let cool
The big reveal! Open up your butterflies for major Oooo’s and Ahhh’s! You can let them cool flat, OR because of the way the melted wax works with the cloth, you can shape them! After cooling enough to safely touch, bend them in the middle and curl the wings up or down slightly to make them look like butterflies in flight!
Tips for Making Melted Crayon Butterflies with Kids
Here are a couple of tricks I learned along the way while making these with a couple of my favorite little artists…
- Do the prep of cutting out some extra butterflies and making crayon shavings first. I like involving kids in all of the steps, but let’s be real, the cutting and shaving just isn’t where the fun’s at for this particular project. Once your kiddos get going, you’re going to appreciate having a pile of pre-cut butterflies and lots of crayon shavings at the ready.
- Work on large cookie sheets (or similar low-sided surfaces). The little crayon shavings have a tendancy to travel, and one stiff breeze or dragged sleeve means you could have tiny bits of wax in lots of places you don’t want them.
- Keep a wet paper towel at the ready. It’s the most effective way to pick up little crayon bits from surfaces and hands after butterfly-making.
- Don’t sweat the sprinkling. The best part of this project is that literally EVERYTHING looks good in the end. You kid wants to absolutley cover their butterfly in shavings? Go for it! Smush that bad boy together and see what happens. Perfect and exact aren’t what we’re after – it’s all about trying out a fun new process (and the surprise is half the fun anyway!).
- Don’t plug in the iron until you’re ready to use it. I always forget how often things on the table get jostled and bumbed around until I’m RIGHT in the middle of a project. Save yourself an iron disaster and wait to heat it until you’re ready for it. Making LOTS of butterflies? Set yourself up at a seperate table to create an ironing “station.” Once the kiddos have the gist of the project, you can let them do their designing while you man the ironing table.
- Save your extra shavings! This is a fun process, and you can easily revisit it later using other simple templates better suited to the season. We’re saving ours for melted crayon autumn leaf art, and melted crayon Christmas trees!
Ways to use your butterflies for play or learning
The truly unexpected outcome of this project was how many mini-lessons were so easily incorporated into this art activity (including a lively demo on iron safety – ha!). Here are some ideas to help you use your showy spring or summer butterfly brigade for learning and play…
- EXPLORE SYMMETRY IN NATURE. Beyond discussing the symmetry in our own butterflies, our art activity led right into a deep dive into all the places symmetry can be found in nature and the different types (bilateral vs. radial for example). You can find a good introduction to symmetry in biology on the Encyclopedia Britannica site, use our free printable leaf activity kit to make a leaf flipbook for symmetry matching practice, stamp your own symmetrical butterfly mask, or head outside for an activity like these cardboard nature butterflies from Little Pine Learners.
- MAKE A DIY MIGRATION MAP. One of my favorite things to do in the spring (and kids love following along!) is to track the migration of butterflies as they head north towards my state from their summer homes in Mexico. Journey North has fabulous maps for tracking Monarchs, Swallowtails, Hummingbirds, and other signs of spring. For a migration activity using your butterflies, you can put small sticky dots on the back of each and use them on a map to track the day-to-day (or week-to-week) progress as they migrate your way!
- MAKE MINI POTTED POLLINATOR GARDENS. For a fun kids gardening activity (and segway into pollination learning!) plant a native pollinator or two in a clay pot. Using a stapler, affix your butterflies onto small wooden garden stakes to add a bit of color and decoration to your mini pollinator garden. Pollinator Partnership has fantastic free pollinator plant guides to help you find the perfect picks for your container garden. For extra credit, attach extra butterflies to a lovely DIY butterfly feeder (from Handmade Charlotte)! The bright colors are a perfect way to attract hungry butterflies!
- DISCUSS STATES OF MATTER. The process we used for this activity perfectly demonstrates a solid changing to a liquid. Having grown up watching Mr. Rogers, I immediately remembered his classic video of how crayons are made (full Mister Rodgers episode via PBS for the win!) and we finished up our butterfly afternoon with a trip down memory lane. His trip to the crayon factory is still enthralling and is a relatable visual aid when discussing states of matter. And now you can head outside with your “good” crayons for a coloring session among your pollinator gardens!
More about Shannon and Oh Creative Day
The kid-made melted crayon wall-hanging I’ve linked to is just the teeniest sample of the genius you’ll find over on Oh Creative Day. Shannon is one of my favorites, and as a bonus, her posts and personality are as bright and colorful as her projects. Every bite of wisdom is served with a generous helping of wit. In addition to her amazing work at Oh Creative Day, she teaches kid-lit + art classes and hosts a weekly craft challenge. Every account is a must-follow…and heads up, if you’re not on her email list, you’re missing out on one of the best darn e-books I’ve ever been sent!
For another way to experiment with spring or summer process art, try making your own hammered nature art! Perch your butterflies in a bouquet of tissue paper & twig flowers, or give them an extra-special home in an enchanted unicorn garden!
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!