Monday, June 9, 2008

Butterfly Watching with the Kids

I took the wee ones to The Butterfly Place in Westford, Mass., recently, as research for a piece for the Boston Globe's new column, "Bring the Family." Our older kids had enjoyed the habitat there when they were younger, and I thought that our preschooler and toddler might be interested. Turned out that neither of them wanted to leave... ever.

June 7, 2008
Bring the Family: Where the butterflies roam

WHO: Globe Magazine staff member Lylah M. Alphonse and her five kids, ages 1 to 14.
WHAT: Indoor butterfly watching
WHERE: The Butterfly Place, 120 Tyngsboro Road, Westford. 978-392-0955.

We walked into the darkness of the small "airlock" and then into the bright sunlight filtering through the flowers and trees in the 3,100-square-foot glass atrium. My 19-month-old's mouth dropped open in awe. My 3-year-old, hopped up on Go, Diego, Go!, eyed the moving sparks of color and pointed: "Look, Mama! A Blue Morpho butterfly!" (Apparently the graphic artists for the Nick Jr. cartoon she loves are spot-on, because she was right.)

The Butterfly Place opened in 1990, only the fourth butterfly habitat in the country at the time. Older kids with an entomology bent will learn plenty in the observation area, which is set up for a self-guided tour of cocoon- and larvae-filled display cases and a 15-minute video of the life cycle of a butterfly, but the real attraction is the live butterfly habitat, where, if you stand still enough, a fluttering specimen might even land on you. The habitat is kept at about 80 degrees (optimal for butterfly flight), and during our most recent visit a few newly hatched quail chicks roamed the place like a band of tiny, animated Peeps. With as many as 500 examples of about 50 types of butterflies from around the world, the Butterfly Place is especially appealing to fairy-princess fanatics -- we even saw a guest in full princess regalia, complete with iridescent pink wings. (Photo by Bob Wilson) [More]

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