12 Fun Ways to Get Kids Involved in Bird Watching

heading up into our woods
heading up into our woods | Source

In the Year 2000

When my nephew was 4 years old, we introduced him to his first nature walk in our woods. Since he lives about 2 hours away, it wasn’t often we had such an opportunity. My Mom was babysitting him that weekend, and she lived only 20 minutes away.

I had used a card making computer program to make a checklist of things I knew he would likely see, as well as a certificate of achievement to be presented when he had completed his first introduction to nature.

That weekend was filled with beautiful sunshine and ideal temperatures. I fixed him a sandwich and he had his water bottle, a pencil and his checklist. He had chosen for his outfit of the day his cowboy chaps, vest and hat. Robbie was ready for his adventure.


Rob, the graduate, with his parents:  my brother, Larry & my sister-in-law Kathy
Rob, the graduate, with his parents: my brother, Larry & my sister-in-law Kathy | Source

We spent about half an hour walking in the woods and searching for those items on the checklist. He found quite a few, but seemed to be distracted by the birds more than anything. Soon after this first nature walk he requested a pair of binoculars for Christmas. It was then I knew that he would be a part of the next generation of birdwatchers. To say I was ‘tickled pink’ would be an understatement!

I signed him up as a member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology so he would receive their newsletter every month. He told me that he looked forward to learning all he could about birds, insects and all animals. Rob and his Dad (my brother) went on to become an Eagle Scout and Scout Leader respectively. My nephew is now in college studying to become a veterinarian. I like to think that first nature walk had something to do with sparking his love of the outdoors, animals and birds, and his interest in stewardship of this planet.

Kids love to explore the outdoors!
Kids love to explore the outdoors! | Source

Here is my list of fun things for children to help spark their interest in nature and especially bird watching.

· 1. Go on a nature walk looking for birds, wildlife and bugs. There are several good books for young or beginning bird watchers.

Things to take along on your nature walk: pencil or pen, checklist or tablet on which to note your sightings, time of day and weather conditions; camera and or binoculars; water bottle; healthy snack; trash bag and gloves to pick up any litter or garbage, and help keep our Earth clean.

2. Kid-friendly Bird Guides. Again there are several very good ones just for kids that help them to identify birds they see. Check at your favorite bookstore or online. I'm very partial to Peterson's Bird Guides because of all the wonderful illustrations. One that I am told is very good for kids is entitled: "Young Birders Guide by Peterson" .

Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak | Source

3. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has programs geared toward kids, as well as a downloadable pdf file of common birds they would most likely see. This is a great free reference and learning tool.

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· 4. Binoculars made for children. These should be powerful enough so that they can actually make a good identification, but not so heavy or cumbersome as to render them unusable by small children. Be sure the binoculars have cushioned or rubberized eye cups to protect the lenses and their eye glasses.

· 5. Audio cd’s for identifying birds by their songs. Even if children are not able to actually see the bird, they can learn to identify it by listening to the bird calls. For instance, a scarlet tanager loves to stay high up in the canopy of trees. But I know absolutely when it is around by its "Chip-Bang" call! An ovenbird is difficult to spot because it is the same color as the leaf litter in which it nests and hunts. But if I hear "Teacher, Teacher, TEACHER", an ovenbird is nearby!


small photo album 4" x 6"
small photo album 4" x 6" | Source

· 6. Purchase an inexpensive 4”x 6” photo album where kids can tuck in pictures, feathers, etc from their walks. They can also add bird stickers, and or images and articles from magazines for future reference. A small scrapbook or journal would work for this as well.

Birds love caterpillars!  This is a Joe Pye Weed that's easy to grow in your bird garden.
Birds love caterpillars! This is a Joe Pye Weed that's easy to grow in your bird garden. | Source

· 7. Plant a bird seed garden and bird-attracting flowers.

This is a great way to introduce children to planting things and watching them grow. When I was very young, I learned all about planting vegetables and flowers from my grandfather. He had an amazing garden that my brothers and I helped to plant and maintain. I can still taste the ears of sweet corn we harvested and hurried to Grandma’s waiting pot of boiling water!

This is a bluebird house, but a chickadee nests in it every year!  It has a front door that opens and closes securely for observing and cleaning.
This is a bluebird house, but a chickadee nests in it every year! It has a front door that opens and closes securely for observing and cleaning. | Source

· 8. Purchase a simple bird house and show kids how to approach carefully to check on whether or not a bird has nested. Make sure to buy one that has an easily accessible door that can be securely closed after observations are done!

· 9. To entice birds to nest nearby, cut lengths of twine or cotton yarn 4” to 8” long and drape them over branches where birds can find them. Do this on a dry day because they don’t use wet materials when making their nests. Most birds nest between March and June.

Old feather pillow has loads of small curly feathers your birds can use in their nests.
Old feather pillow has loads of small curly feathers your birds can use in their nests. | Source
Grapevine Ball filled with Bird Nesting Materials.
Grapevine Ball filled with Bird Nesting Materials. | Source

· 10. In order to make a soft liner for their eggs and baby birds, Mama and Papa bird use animal fur, moss and other birds’ feathers. You can use an old feather pillow or find one at a thrift store. Open up the pillow and pick out the curly small feathers. These can be stuffed into a mesh produce bag so that the birds can pull them out of the holes in the mesh. Hang your feather bag in a protected area to keep the feathers dry.

You can also make a nesting ball by purchasing an open grapevine ball from the craft store. Collect clean animal fur from brushing your cat, dog or rabbit; use cotton batting that has been pulled apart into small pieces, or add small curly feathers from an old feather pillow. Hang the nesting ball in a protected area where birds will see it.

· 11. Window-mounted bird feeders are a wonderful way for kids to watch birds up close without disturbing them. Because birds have to slow down to approach this type of feeder, there is no danger that they will be injured by hitting the window. So you can feel safe using this kind of feeder. To insure the feeder suction cups stick securely to your window, clean the window thoroughly with one part vinegar to 2 parts water. Make sure the window is dry; rinse the suction cups in warm water, then dry thoroughly. The warmth makes them more pliable and easier to attach. Mounting a window bird feeder is best done when the outdoor temperatures are above freezing.

In order to attract a variety of birds for kids to enjoy watching, add a hummingbird nectar feeder or an oriole nectar feeder. You can also install a peanut feeder that will attract all kinds of nut lovers!

The love of popcorn is something both humans and birds share in common.  Looks good--think I'll go make some right now!
The love of popcorn is something both humans and birds share in common. Looks good--think I'll go make some right now! | Source

· 12. Make some popcorn and share it with your bird friends. Or fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; cut it into small bird-size pieces and leave them on a feeder for your birds to discover. There are lots of alternative foods that birds will love.

Our newest generation of bird watchers is just ‘waiting in the wings’ to be inspired. Help them spark that interest to enjoy and protect our wild birds, and all wildlife for that matter. We’ll all benefit in ways that will reach far into the future.

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Thanks for Stopping By! Your Comments Are Welcome. 12 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I'm just not in touch with many children any longer. When I taught class I would always take the kids out on nature walks and try to point out whatever birds I could....and they always had fun. :)

Good job my friend; the more kids we can get interested in nature the better for civilization.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

I can always count on you, Billy, for supportive and interesting comments! You're right, the more the merrier when it comes to those interested in nature and all it has to offer. I'm sure the nature walks you took with the children in your class are still remembered by them. Enjoying the outdoors has a way of staying with you!

As always, thanks so much for your encouragement. It is appreciated more than you will ever imagine my friend.

Pearl


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA

What wonderful ideas to get kids involved in nature related activities! I think that bird watching is a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about wildlife, the environment and nature. It's also a great way to share your love of nature with your favorite kids! And kids who learn early to love nature will be the ones who protect the environment when they grow up! Great hub, voted up and shared!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thanks Stephanie! You are right about kids learning to love nature--they are this planet's future stewards. I was so pleased when my nephew showed such an interest in nature and all its rewards.

I'm very glad you enjoyed this article, and I thank you for your supportive and lovely comments, vote and share. They are much appreciated.

Have a wonderful day :)

Pearl


shara63 profile image

shara63 3 years ago from Delhi

Wonderful hub & amazing ideas for the kids to attract them towards nature ....it recalled me the days when i used to wander around the woods just to get some glimps of nature's beauty with all colourful ,tiny creatures all around!! thankyou grandmapearl for taking me back to my childhood !! voting up+++!!!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

shara63, I'm so glad you stopped by! It's fun to return to those days when we could explore the nature all around us. I'm lucky because I live in the woods and am able to walk through them, weather permitting, everyday. I always find something new, whether it's a different plant or interesting rock. I'm pleased that this took you back to your exploration days.

Your supportive comments and votes are very much appreciated. Have a wonderful day:)


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Great work, Connie. It is easy to infect youngsters with the birdwatching bug. We need to have a new generation of those that will care for our feathered friends when we no longer can. Thanks for passing on the word!


Bumpsysmum profile image

Bumpsysmum 3 years ago from Cambridgeshire

I have already got my Sons' stepson interested in birds but some of these tips may help to sustain his enthusiasm. We have a wonderful variety of birds in our garden and he was awestruck when he saw the Great Spotted Woodpeckers on our feeders. Great Hub.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Deb, you are exactly right. The stewardship of this planet depends upon the next generation of youngsters. The more we can involve them in wild birds and wildlife in general, the more we insure this old Earth will become healthy and live on. Thanks for the great comments and super support, as always my friend.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Bumpsysmum, Good For You! Thanks for getting youngsters involved in this wonderful hobby. Birds are just so beautiful and important. I applaud you efforts! Thanks for these great comments, and your support. You are very much appreciated my friend :)

Pearl


BNadyn profile image

BNadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

My little boy is on summer break right now and so I have been looking for things to do and he would love this. Thanks for a great idea and I know he would enjoy using the binoculars and taking photos for photo album.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

BNadyn, I'm very pleased that you and your son will be walking together and looking for birds. It's so much fun to start a photo album for birds and other wildlife you've seen. This may be the beginning of another birdwatcher's career! Thank you for your visit and comments--they are very much appreciated ;) Pearl

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