About Butterfly

Thank you for your interest in The Butterfly Project. Our Breathing Butterfly project makes use of a simple and beloved image - the butterfly - to teach kids a very profound life skill. Please note there are "Intro for Parents" PDF pages in many languages, just go to the language page to find them. We began this project to address stress in children at risk for chronic or persistent stress.

How it Started

This project sprang up originally to help with high risk populations, but quickly was understood to be helpful in other areas of stress, including hospital stays. Then, we realized the obvious: every kid could use better stress-busting skills. We want to reach children in many languages, and we've put the resources online so that parents, teachers, social workers, healing professionals, older siblings, and any caring adults can easily find it and pass it along to anyone who might be helped.

Our Breathing Butterfly project is all about giving kids stress-busting coping skills. Using a universally loved butterfly metaphor, we give you - whether you're a tech-savvy kid or a caring adult - the resources you need to deal with stress in a simple and straightforward way.

You can empower your kids by explaining to them how to use a few deep breaths and visualize a butterfly, in what's known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Simple to learn, quick to use, but even at only three minutes in length, it packs a powerful punch. When you teach them the Breathing Butterfly, kids learn that, while they may not be able to control the environment, they do have some power over their response to what goes on around them. It's a bit like a vaccination, an 'innoculation' that helps protect against stress... except that there's no needle. There's only a gentle butterfly, always ready to help kids feel better, and always as close as their very imaginations.

How it Works

The Breathing Butterfly exercise starts with closing your eyes and imagining a little butterfly you can call your own. Visualize it in your mind opening its wings; as it does this, take a nice deep breath counting 1-2-3. Hold your breath at 3 and then, slowly breathe out counting 3-2-1. Imagine the butterfly closing its wings as you breathe out. Repeat one more time. How are you feeling now? Are you getting a little more relaxed and peaceful? Take in good feelings - inspiration - when breathing in; let go of any negative or stressful feelings when breathing out.

Everyone has stress, and all kids, whether highly stressed or simply dealing with the stress of growing up, can benefit from additional coping skills. MBSR has been shown to build resilience and improve outcomes by reducing the toxic effects of the body's response to this stress (see our studies page for details). Older youth who learn the Breathing Butterfly technique for the purpose of teaching younger children will surely also benefit, themselves, perhaps without even knowing it.

In addition, we have developed an entire suite of tools based on the Butterfly metaphor, to help with various aspects of psychological issues facing children, including: addressing diversity and being special; addressing change; control and mastery; and creativity and care. Because the mind and body are connected—and because the mind and body affect each other—it’s important for both emotional and physical health to take the time to calm the mind and rid our bodies of unnecessary stress. Together, our hope is that such strategies will have a positive effect on mental and physical health outcomes, as well as empowerment through successful participation in educational, social, and community networks.

Butterflies as Pets? Caution

Children who participate sometimes then ask to raise butterflies. Butterfly raising kits can be purchased online, but we caution parents that outcomes vary, and that butterflies are very short-lived. After considering the many aspects of keeping pets and deciding that pets are an option, animals (rather than insects) have the best stress reducing potential according to the American Pain Foundation,, which cites benefits including: lower anxiety, decreased depression, and lower blood pressure.