How to Have a Backyard Birdwatching Adventure With Your Kids
Looking for a way to share some of that fun with your own children?
Birdwatching is a great way to get the family out of the house and into nature.
In this article, I’ll show you how to have a birdwatching adventure with your kids from your own backyard and I’ll share a few projects and activities to make the experience last long after the birds have flown away.
Why Go Birdwatching?
Birdwatching will open up worlds to your kids that they never knew existed.
Exploring the great outdoors through birdwatching—even if it’s as close as your own backyard—gives you an opportunity to talk to your kids about how they see the world around them and what it means to them.
It gives your child a chance to discover and connect with the natural world.
Plus, it’s a fun way for your family to spend some time together outside.
Read on for ways to get the kids off the couch and into the great outdoors, loving their new feathered friends.
Your backyard is filled with creatures great and small. Spend just a few minutes outdoors and you’ll notice lots of cool critters. You can find hundreds of birds, and the insects they eat, right outside your door.
So urge your kids to go outside and look for some!Many of these animals inspired the characters your kids see on TV and in video games. Angry Birds is just one great example.
What will birdwatching inspire in your kids? Read on for some creative projects in the article below.
So pack a picnic, grab a pair of binoculars and let’s go birdwatching!
#1: Look and Learn
Birdwatching is very easy to do. Take your kids outside and look for birds. That’s it. Binoculars are helpful, but if you don’t have any, that’s ok. You’ll be surprised at how much life you see when you really watch for it.
Can you think of ways to bring more birds to your yard? You may want to make a birdfeeder to attract birds or you can plant things birds in your area like to eat. Check with your local extension office to learn the best native plants that provide birds with food, shelter and a place to raise young.When you spot some birds, ask your kids what they see: what colors, what shapes, what sizes? Have them imitate the sounds they hear. This is a great way to expand your children’s vocabulary too. See if they can tell the difference between dark green and light green, tall and short, thin and thick, red and orange.
Play birdwatching I Spy with your kids. “I spy a mourning dove” or “I spy a grey bird in a tree.” See who can spot more birds and reward the winner with a special treat, like a favorite meal or an extra hour watching TV.
Write down descriptions of the birds you see.
#2: Research… Who’s Who?
Now, figure out what kind of birds you saw. The descriptions and photos you took will help.
You can check a guidebook, but most people use the Internet. Smartphones and tablets that give you Internet access just about anywhere have made it easy to identify birds in their natural environment.Check school sites, government sites and organizations that focus on birds. The Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation or Birds of North America are great resources.
Teaching your kids to research on the Internet is a very valuable skill. Look at sites that are science-based for the most reliable information.
You can search many sites by geographic location. Just enter your region or zip code and find a list of birds in your area. Then, start with the color of the bird you’re trying to identify. Work through other characteristics until you’re able to figure out which bird was in your yard.
#3: Make a Nature Box
While you’re out looking for birds, here’s a fun, easy and inexpensive project your family can do together.
Look in your backyard (or wherever you’re birdwatching) for interesting things that nature left there: feathers, rocks, leaves of different shapes and sizes, footprints, sticks, dead bugs, wings or anything that looks interesting and cool. (Tell your kids not to touch any poo!)
Put the things you find in a shoebox or plastic container.
Ask your kids to identify the items. Do they know what bird might have left the feathers or other items?
Feathers are a great way to identify migratory birds. Look at sticks and see if they would make a good bird’s nest. Are there other objects around that a bird might like to use for its nest?
If you can’t identify an object, research it together on the Internet. You’ll be surprised how excited you’ll feel when you discover what the object is.
Have your kids compare things in the box to find colors that match or items that are similar.
Add to your box of treasures each time you birdwatch. You could create a list of specific items to look for and make a nature scavenger hunt.
#4: Create Birdwatching Art
There are many kinds of art inspired by birdwatching. Create some with your kids!
Draw one kind of bird you see. If it flies away before you’re finished, you can draw from memory or refer to a photo you took. Put your finished drawing in a frame and hang it on the wall. Your child’s vision will make a great art piece and will inspire lots of conversations in the future.Or use your nature box to draw one of the items or make a collage.
Choose one of the items you like (or a small collection) from your box and start drawing.
To make a collage, arrange the items you found into a design you like on a sheet of paper and then glue or tape them down. Before you open the glue, move the items around until you find the design that pleases you. Your kids may like the feathers apart or together or grouped by size, color or shape. Their designs may be something that only they understand.
Resist the urge to “fix” or “help with” your child’s art. This is his or her own creation.
There are countless nature or bird-inspired arts and crafts projects you can do with your kids. Check Pinterest or Google or create something unique.
If your kids enjoy identifying and counting the birds that visit your backyard, you can add an extra element of fun to your birdwatching and help the scientific community at the same time! Register to become a citizen scientist.
Books and movies have been written about birdwatching. Here’s a clip from The Big Year.
It’s fun to count how many different kinds of birds you see. Print out a tracking sheet for your location and tally the number of sightings your family makes.Many organizations have citizen scientist programs that ask people just like you and your kids to count and report the birds you’ve seen. The data collected from citizen scientists all over the world is used to track bird populations and migration patterns.
Sometimes, these organizations arrange birdwatching (and counting) events. One example is the Great Backyard Bird Count that occurs every February. When you participate, it’s a great way to help nature, create a bond with your kids and explore the outdoors.
A Few Final Words…
Introduce your children to birdwatching now and they’ll enjoy a lifelong hobby that’s shared by people around the world. It’s fun to get outside with your kids to look for and identify the many birds that live right in your own backyard.
What do you think? Have you ever tried birdwatching with your kids? We’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment or photo of your birdwatching adventure.