Butterflies, Handwashing & Children: Healthy Development in Nature | handwashing


“Can I toush the butterfly is I wash my hands?”

Three words repeated throughout homes, schools, hospitals, restaurants, playgrounds and more are “Wash your hands”.  Handwashing is one of the key ingredients to children’s healthy development. Allow the child to explore nature and get a little “dirty” first! Butterflies are a perfect blend of nature and need for cleanliness. From parents to teachers to nurses and doctors the words and act of sanitizing to protect our health – and ultimately, a child’s healthy development – is everywhere. The impact of the simple act of handwashing with soap and clean water saves lives.

Simple things and information help support healthy environment for all to grow to one’s potential.

A few years ago I started raising monarch butterflies as a year-long curriculum in  preschool classrooms. Ths small, elegant, yet dynamic insect helps teach everything from science to reading to geography. Underlying all of it is learning an appreciation for the global connectiion of a healthy environment. Learning to appreciate and protect the natural world.

One of the tenderest moments in teaching with butterflies and young children is the moment of release. No longer protected by netting from the world, both the butterfly and the child connect. It is heartbreaking for a child if they touch the butterfly with too much forceso that butterfly’s wing breaks or is weakened. However, the opportunity to connect physically with this butterflies the child helped to feed and care for from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly creates a moment of lifelong appreciation and protection.

The only way to do this is to keep teaching children about “butterfly fingers”. Long before the caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis the children have heard and felt “butterfly fingers”. Gentle is not a concerpt children learn quickly. Young children dive into exploration of everything head first with a passion unmatched. “Butterfly fingers” is the touch offered when you need reassurance after falling fown a step; or guiding how to use a new tool or the way we speak when someone is sad and feels remorse. Butterfly fingers are gentle and kind yet offer firm leadership and safe boundaries.

Whereas “butter-fingers” are sticky and sloppy, butterfly fingers are safe, intentional, soft, and responsive. It’s a great way to teach children how to be kind to one another. Butterflies require a gentle presence. Kind to their environment and in the long run empower them to be an engaged member of Mother Nature’s team.

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About the author: Mary Ellen Mannix

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