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Summer Bag of Tricks: Butterfly Birthday

For two summers now, I've led the girls through theme days to break up the (usually wonderful, occasionally monotonous) non-routine of summer. We've been ninjas and celebrated a bit of Japanese culture, we've been cavemen (um, cavegirls). Even pirates. We spent a few days last summer in character as the cast from The Magic Tree House.

This year we've celebrated the fire department, advocated for endangered species, posed as mermaids, created public art, and become kindness fairies.

Not all of our days have made it to the blog (I've been busy chasing Mr. Toddler). But they've all been memorable, recorded or not.

Our theme days usually begin with a costume. Always, we find a silly snack or lunch recipe to go with our theme. Often we make up a song. There are usually books, role playing games, and even the occasional field trip.

I always love passing the title of activity leader off to Miss Second Grader.

This week, she noticed that our monarch chrysalis, created by the first caterpillar she found on her own, was changing rapidly. It turned dark and then translucent, in the time it took us to eat breakfast. A final phase of the butterfly's transformation, telling us that the butterfly would soon emerge.

"It's butterfly day!" My second-grader exclaimed. "Let's have a butterfly birthday!"

And that's exactly what we did.

We read books about caterpillars and crafted butterfly decorations for our nature table. We wrote acrostic poems about butterflies, helping little Miss Not-Quite-5-In-Time-For-Kindergarten with her letter sounds.

And then, all of our waiting paid off. Miss Second Grader noticed a twitch. Then a crack.

"She's hatching!"

We watched in wonder as the wrinkly, soggy wings of our caterpillar-turned-butterfly emerged.

Of course, the snack was butterfly birthday cake.

(Nutritionists, please look away).

I actually allowed my children to feast on strawberry marshmallows topped with ready whip (left over from a neighborhood tea party) and sprinkles. In my defense, I felt reasonably sure that singing happy birthday to the butterfly before diving into our little sugar bombs indicated to everyone that this was a special occasion not to be repeated on any other random Tuesday.

While the butterfly's wings dried, we walked through our local park. Our plan was to hunt for other butterflies or caterpillars, but the call of summer lured us away to bike races and pool play.

The day ended when we let the birthday girl go. The whole neighborhood clapped and cheered as her brand new butterfly wings carried her over our garden fence and out into the wide world.

I look forward to the next child-selected, child-led theme day. There's nothing quite as satisfying as watching the kids take charge of their own curriculum and throw themselves into learning and play with such enthusiasm!