Story time can be the highlight of your kid’s day. Now imagine one that’s so secret, so special, so fanciful that it’s the highlight of your kid’s year. You’ll find it on select Fridays at Salt Creek Butterfly Farm. The habitat for winged beauties is in suburban Countryside, 18 miles from downtown Chicago — but you won’t feel like you’re near the city. The setting is peaceful and pastoral, and the mood is warm and carefree. Want in on the fun? Read on.

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Stories in the Middle of Nature
Flutter Tales Story Hour — a program of butterfly-themed stories, crafts and hands-on exploration for ages four and five — is a tradition at Salt Creek Butterfly Farm. Yet it’s still a well-kept secret. The farm doesn’t promote it publicly, so buzz spreads by word of mouth. Keeping things intimate and engaging is all part of the experience; in fact, advance registration is required and only 10 kids are admitted so everyone gets personal attention. (Note: The farm kindly asks that visitors don’t show up without advance notice, as they’re not equipped to cater to anyone but pre-registered families.)

When you arrive, you can slip on a pair of dress-up butterfly wings on and settle in for magical morning. Books are read by Linda Winfield, a retired kindergarden teacher that a lot of the neighborhood kids know and love. She sets up camp in a large screened-in agriculture tent at the top of a rolling hill. The tent is the butterflies’ home and they’re free to flutter around. No hands-off rules here; everyone is allowed to let the winged creatures get close. Before the story begins, kids prepare their own “butterfly carrier” by scooping out a watermelon ball to put inside a tiny plastic cup. The watermelon attracts butterfly friends so your kiddo might have a little companion for the hour of fun.

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Crafts & Wildlife on a Beautiful Hill
There is plenty of time to explore the caterpillars and butterflies (usually monarchs) and see how gentle they are. Grab a magnifying glass or even a stick of butter to attract these little friends. It’s a blast to be at your child’s side, getting to know these creatures — and also a bit of butterfly sign language, as well as a nature-themed song. Craft time is devoted to helping kids slow down and observe the outdoors. Often, kids are asked to observe the colors and patterns of butterflies and create something inspired by them.

The setting alone is worth the trip. The farm sits in a corner of a horse ranch called Double J Riding Club, which is home to 40 horses, a tortoise, a goat and pigs. The mini menagerie can be seen on a walk around the farm, which you’ll have time to do after the other story time activities wind down.

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Summer Camps & More
Along with story hour, the farm entices little adventurers (ages 6-12) with Art & Nature Summer Camp. Campers hunt for butterfly eggs in the morning by looking at host plants in the gardens. Then they prepare a “shopping list” and gather caterpillar food found right there in the gardens. Everyone feeds the hungry caterpillars till they’re plump and they start roaming to find a place to form their chrysalis. One big part of camp is creating an art project that requires kids to do deeper thinking about wildlife and natural habitats.

New this year is a camp for five-year-olds called Flutterby Camp from August 4-7 that provides age-appropriate butterfly fun and creative learning in a small class. For more info on this and other camps, click here.

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The window of opportunity to check out all of these cool — and little-known — activities is small. We recommend getting on the list before summer flies away!

Flutter Tales Story Hour
Held June 6 & 20, July 11 & 18, August 1 at 10 a.m.
Cost: $10/child

Salt Creek Butterfly Farm
10545 74th St.
Countryside, IL
708-601-1080
Register online at: saltcreekbutterflyfarm.com

Do you have a favorite story time? Let us know about it in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon