DIY Butterfly Wings for Dress Up Play

Toddler painting the wings of her dress up butterfly wings

Imaginative play is an essential part of childhood. In reality, children do not need anything to be creative. Some of the best toys can be found in nature. Sticks can become scientific instruments and rocks can become friendly animals. Earlier today, my toddler's hands were spiders (actually one was a daddy spider and the other was a spiderling, but you get the point). Kids can be imaginative on their own, but sometimes it can also be fun for them to pretend with props that we provide for them (or help them make). It is also fun to make something with your child that has a utility other than making the fridge look more attractive (although, those are great too!).

A couple of weeks ago, Little M. and I made a Bunny Mask out of a paper plate. I threw it into her dress up box for her to play with, and she did. A lot. So, I decided that she might enjoy another dress up option that we could make together.

This week we are reading and learning about butterflies. I thought it would be fun to do a craft to make a set of butterfly wings for her dress up play. I wanted to use materials that we already have available in the house since we are absolutely car-less while our only vehicle is in the body shop, so this activity does not require anything out of the ordinary. (Which was good, because I had no intention of walking to the craft shop and I didn't really want to wait for supplies to be delivered).

What You Will Need to Make the Butterfly Wings Craft

  • cardboard (I used a cereal box)
  • construction paper (Alternatively, you could double up the cardboard and skip the construction paper. Just make sure that when you glue the pieces together the outside of the cereal box is facing in.)
  • paint (We used watercolor paint and glitter glue. You could use any non-toxic paint, though.)
  • paintbrushes
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • packing tape
  • yarn or string
  • pencil

Preparing the Wings for Your Child to Paint

First, you'll need to make each of the wings. I made them in two pieces. I drew the left side first (freehand, but you could use a template if you want) onto the blank side of the card board. You want to draw a large top wing and a smaller bottom wing. When I was happy with the design, I cut it out. Then I traced the finished wing onto the other side of the cardboard. When you trace the wing make sure that blank side of the already cut wing is facing downward. The blank side of the cardboard you are drawing on should be facing upward. This way, your wings will mirror each other. Now, you can cut out the second wing. Tape the two wings together on the printed side of the cardboard.

Now, trace each of the wings onto a piece of construction paper. Cut them out and glue them onto the outside of the wings (that had the cereal information on them).

child is painting her wings with watercolors

Decorating the DIY Butterfly Wings with Your Child

Now that the wings are dry, your child can get creative. Place the wings in a comfortable workspace for your child. Provide paint, brushes, glitter glue, etc. and let them create!

Kid painting glitter glue onto her dress up butterfly wings


Finishing the Wings

Once the paint is dry, it's time to turn them into something that your child can wear. To make them more durable, I covered both sides of the wings in clear packing tape. This creates a plastic-y outer coating that should help with wear and tear, although it will not make the wings completely indestructible or water-proof. I taped a length of yarn (about 12 inches) to each wing, fastened at the top and bottom. The wings can now be worn like a backpack. If you want to be sure that the yarn will fit over your child's shoulders, just cut it very long, fasten them to the tops of the wings, and then ask them to try it on. You can cut the yarn to a comfortable length (leaving a couple inches extra for the tape).

the front side of the finished wings
Finished Wings, front
Strings attached to the finished wings
Finished wings, back

Customizing the Butterfly Wings

This activity is very flexible. You could make wings for a dragonfly, bee, dragon, fairy, etc. You could decorate them with stickers, dot markers, or glue on a paper collage. You could provide butterfly shaped cookie cutters for them and let them stamp the wings with butterflies (for more information about the cookie cutter stamping craft, check out Cookie Cutter Pumpkin Stamping[LINK]). You could use this as part of a Halloween costume with a set of antennae (which gives me another craft idea...) The possibilities are virtually endless.

I love this activity because it models for children something which is very important. You could easily buy dress up toys. A reason to do activities like this with your child is to teach them that they can influence their world. A person is capable of making something exist which has never before existed. When you buy a dress up toy (or any toy really) at the store, the child has no sense of where it came from or what it took to make it. The child is disconnected from the knowledge of creation. And, that's ok the vast majority of the time. I definitely do not make all of my child's toys with her. However, I do make a point of making things like this with her, at least some of the time. After we made the Weathervane together, she asked if we could make a thermometer. Once she knew that she could shape things into new tools to learn and play, she was hooked. She wanted to make more. Making things with your children teaches them to look at the world in a new way. A perspective shift happens. Children stop asking what they can get, and start asking what they can do.

DIY Butterfly Dress Up Wings

If you enjoyed this activity or found it useful, please share it or leave a comment. I love hearing from you! If you are interested in more kid's crafts like this, check out The Paper Plate Umbrella Craft, Found Object Wind Chime, and the Easter Egg Stamped Rabbit


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