Most bird lovers know just what sparked their passion for all things outdoors, whether it was the first time seeing a tiny hummingbird or spotting a robin’s nest. Part of the joy of birding is passing it down to the next generation. Here are four ideas you can use to kick-start your favorite kid’s new birding obsession and get your kid outdoors to discover all the things nature has to offer.
Pinecone? Check. Peanut butter? Check. Attach colorful string or a pretty pipe cleaner to the tip of the pinecone. Then spread peanut butter in the crevices with the help of your young assistant. (If the peanut butter is tricky to spread, soften it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Ask your helper to roll the gooey cone in birdseed. Once the DIY treat is complete, hang it in a tree for hungry birds to find, but make sure it’s high enough that other animals can’t have a nibble. Watch from a distance to see which bird species stop by first. (Read More! Make a Recycled Paper Heart Bird Feeder)
Indoor Birding Station
There’s a lot going on in your backyard, and both adults and kids can watch the show from the living room. Keep field guides and a pair of binoculars on a side table or tucked away in a basket, and the next time a cardinal flies into your yard, you can show your burgeoning nature lover how to find it with the binoculars and ID it at the same time. (Read More! How to Attract Birds to a Small Backyard)
Get pencils, pens and markers out, and encourage kids to play naturalist when they observe backyard birds. Maintaining their own list of species they’ve seen is a solid starting point, but they can really stretch their creative muscles by drawing what they see, too. Taking photos of birds is another easy way for kids to keep track of feathered backyard visitors.
Sometimes kids just want to lend a hand. The next time you refresh your sock of thistle seed for goldfinches or set out a few oranges for Baltimore orioles, ask the kids in your life to take part. Changing out a block of suet is an opportunity to talk about woodpeckers. Making sugar water for a hummingbird feeder is the perfect chance to explain what different kinds of birds eat. By becoming familiar with feeders, children actively learn more about the birds that visit them. But let kids naturally develop an interest. Naturalist Ken Keffer says, “Some kids will be passionate about seeing new species, and some will obsess only over cardinals. Encourage and help them, but don’t overdo it.”
More Ways to Discover
Birds & Blooms Field Editors sound off on spreading the love of birding to kids.
As a teacher, my favorite classroom activity is making a bird Christmas tree. We’ve used pinecones and other natural objects to make edible decorations for the tree. The hardest part is stringing popcorn and cranberries for the garland. After the tree is done, we look out the classroom window and watch the birds enjoy our work. —Sue Cassidy Hughesville, Maryland
When grandchildren visit, we get out the birdseed. The kids fill the feeders, even though some seeds get spilled! We encourage the children to find birds in the yard, and then I identify the males and females. Making up rhymes and stories is another fun way for them to remember birds. And together, we draw chalk pictures on the concrete driveway of birds we’ve seen. —Joan Heid Chester, South Carolina