Whether your child is making art or designing their own invention, nature can offer endless inspiration for their creations. Enjoying nature also gives them the chance to build their observation skills, engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) exploration and develop a deeper understanding of our world.
Helping your child practice the power of observation (while also having fun) can be as simple as hanging a bird feeder. As you watch different species flock to your feeder, your whole family can enjoy nature, practice empathy and make some fascinating observations together!
Create a Bird Buffet
The first step toward attracting and observing birds will be to choose your feeders. Though you only need one to get started, keep in mind that different types will appeal to different kinds of birds. Offering a variety will help you invite more species to your yard!
- Tube feeders — A tube feeder with seed ports and perches is a great choice for feeding small birds like finches.
- Hopper feeders —These feeders have a roof and walls to keep seed dry, and they come in a range of sizes. The larger your hopper, the larger the birds it can feed.
- Platform feeders — If you want to observe larger birds like jays or grackles, try a platform feeder. It has a flat surface for you to spread out food like seeds, peanuts or mealworms, and it typically has a roof to keep the food dry.
- Suet cages — These feeders are made to hold suet cakes, which are a great source of energy. Hang one of these, and you’re likely to see some woodpeckers!
- Nectar feeders — If you want to attract hummingbirds, you’ll need a feeder that dispenses nectar through tiny ports. Be sure to clean this feeder frequently.
- Ground feeding — You’ll soon find out that many birds like to eat on the ground. They’ll go after the seed that falls from your feeders, but you can also choose to spread seed directly on the ground, or on a table or other large, flat surface.
In addition to food, consider offering water. To help birds that need a drink or a bath, you can simply use a shallow dish and place it close to the ground. Try adding a stone so they have a dry place to perch, and be sure to keep the dish clean.
Start a Birding Journal
Once you’ve attracted some birds, encourage your young birder to start their own birding journal! This is a place for your child to record their observations about the birds they see visiting your feeders.
To inspire your child’s curiosity and nurture their observation skills, try the following prompts:
- Look at the size and shape of a bird’s bill. Do you notice how birds with similar bills tend to choose similar feeders or seeds?
- Check out each bird’s body size and observe how and where they tend to perch. Do you think these things affect which feeders they might choose?
- Do you notice how some birds will feed in groups, while others prefer to eat solo?
- Make note of the colors, markings and patterns you see on different birds’ feathers.
- Can you identify the species you’re seeing, and do you know if each bird is a male or female? These resources can help!
- Can you recognize any of the birds by their calls or songs?
- Write down the date, time of day and weather conditions when you observe a bird. Over time, you can see which ones visit your feeders at different times, and you’ll see that some might migrate while others can be spotted year-round.
- Which birds are your favorite ones to watch? Why?
- Try sketching some of the beautiful birds you see!
Want to boost your knowledge about the feathered friends you’re observing? Explore this helpful resource for insight on the bird species your feeders are likely to attract in your area!
Watch Out for Wildlife
As your family observes bird behavior, keep an eye out for things that could be cause for concern.
If you see a wild bird that is injured, appears to be sick or is displaying behaviors that make it seem like a tame bird, the best thing to do is contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
Keep Learning and Growing
For more ideas to help your child build STEM skills in fun and engaging ways, we invite you to visit our blog.