If you have small children, you are well aware of the craft opportunities available. One that drives me nuts is the ever-popular “let’s make a bird feeder” option. Oftentimes, this simply requires spreading peanut butter on a pinecone and rolling it in bird seed. Then you have to figure out how to get this messy project home, and when you do the backyard squirrel snatches it out of the tree in record time never to be seen again. I have a better idea:
Make your backyard an ongoing bird-feeding experience. Buy or make a simple birdfeeder and keep it filled with seed. Here in the the south we buy the regular year-round seed, but on the East Coast our birds preferred black oil sunflower seeds.
When my son was a pre-schooler we lived in a split-level house. My husband and I had created a bird-friendly back yard, so one spring a mother robin built her nest in the cross beams of the deck. We could go out on the deck and look down between the cracks and see inside the nest! In the basement, we could look out the slider and see her swooping in and out feeding her babies. Talk about an experience! Our son learned how to gently walk across the deck so he could see the eggs, and ultimately the baby birds. He also learned that we needed to give the momma bird privacy so she could tend to them. Imagine his surprise when they hatched and he was able to see how different they looked! We even had the opportunity to discuss why one had not hatched.
Now that we live in the south we have a different array of birds, but our backyard still offers opportunities for our son to observe their natural habits year round. This has provided a great frame of reference for scientific research. Children are naturally curious and what better way to encourage this curiosity than through natural experiences!
So keep those bird feeders filled and the binoculars handy!