The story about a caterpillar that is, well very hungry as the title suggests, can be used to teach small children about self-control, well-being happiness, and growth and change. In the story, a small caterpillar eats all sorts of things caterpillars shouldn’t eat. He does this for 6 days. On the 7th day, the not so small caterpillar eats a leaf, makes a cocoon, and emerges a beautiful butterfly. It is beautifully illustrated and narrated in this video. We have posted the text at the end for your convenience.
You can use this story to have a discussion about self-control with students. Here are some sample questions you can ask to get your students thinking about self-control: why did the caterpillar get a stomach ache? Have you ever had a stomach ache because you ate something bad for you? It can be hard to say no to sweets and other junk food, how do you do it? Why did the leaf make the caterpillar feel better? Why did the caterpillar eat the leaf? If you have to do something you really don’t want to do, do you do it first to get it out of the way, or put it off for as long as possible? How do we learn self-control?
Well-being and Happiness
This story also lends itself to a discussion about well-being and happiness. You can use these questions to guide the conversation. Do you think eating all that food made the caterpillar happy at first? Do you think eating the leaf made the caterpillar feel happy at first? What about later on? Why can it be bad to do things that make us happy at first? Why are things that are good for us, not always fun at first? Was the caterpillar happier after eating the junk food or the leaf? How long does happiness last?
Growth and Change
These questions can help facilitate a class discussion about growth and change after reading or listening to this story. How does the caterpillar grow during the story? Does he grow and change any way other than physically? How do humans grow and change? How have you grown and changed? What is easier, to stay the same or to change? Why do people change? Do we have to change or can we stay the same forever? Have you ever tried to change, but couldn’t? How did that feel and what did you do? Is change always good?
In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf. One Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar. He started to look for some food. On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday, he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry. On Wednesday, he ate through three plums, but he was still hungry. On Thursday, he ate through four strawberries, but he was still hungry. On Friday, he ate through five oranges, but he was still hungry. On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he had a stomachache! The next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better. Now he wasn’t hungry anymore, and he wasn’t a little caterpillar anymore. He was a big, fat caterpillar. He built a small house around himself, called a Cocoon, And he stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out, and… he was a beautiful butterfly.The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
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