by Meghan Fitzgerald
As the Winter season approaches, our Tinkergarten lessons start to feature some of our best teachers—our feathered friends. We humans, big and small, are enamored of birds. Birds amaze us with their ability to fly, captivating calls, aptitude as builders and remarkable methods for surviving winter.
Whether you are welcoming birds who have flown miles and miles south to spend the winter with you, or you live among the hearty birds who remain in your cold, wintery setting, now is the time for you and your kids to really connect with birds. And, as wildlife ecologist Washington Wachira says, “The love of birds can be a huge gateway (for children) to appreciating all forms of nature.”
Here are 8 of our favorite ways to do just that:
Watch this TED Talk with Washington Wachira, and you’ll fall even harder for birds.
Put a pair of binoculars, a bird feeder or a bird book on the gift list for friends, family or kids in your life.
Just start to notice the birds in your yard or park, asking some of these questions around your kiddos to plant seeds:
“I wonder...what kind of bird is that?”
“What do you notice is special about that bird?” (color, size, shape, call, etc.)
“I wonder what the bird is telling his friends with his call.”
Pretend to be birds. Tie scarves to sleeves to make wings. Make beaks using your hands. Then take flight. “Becoming” a creature is a timeless and powerful way for kids to better understand and love that creature.
Make a simple bird feeder and help kids develop both sensory development and empathy as you care for the needs of another creature. Hang it near a window, and you can watch birds too!
Place birds on top of your bedtime reading list with favorites like:
Download and start to play with the Merlin Bird Id app from the Cornell Bird Lab. Use the easy interface to identify a bird or two in your yard or park, and suddenly you’ll notice so many more. Sit down together with kids to flip through the photos and listen to calls of hundreds of amazing birds—that is quality screen time. You can even use the bird calls to beckon the birds around you to “chat” with you (It really works).
Join a Christmas Bird Count: The annual bird count is one of the oldest running conservation efforts, and everyone can get involved. All around the country, on a day between December 14 and January 5 (varies by region), people go outdoors and count birds. Their tallies, when combined, help scientists form a bird census that is used to support bird populations. For kids, it is a chance to be outdoors, to notice birds, to care for their feathered friends and to be part of real science—science that is making our communities and our ecosystems healthier. Visit the Audubon Society to find a local bird count to join. We’ll be out of town for ours, so we’ve decided to take an hour on Christmas day to count birds with all of our family. We can’t think of a better way to spend our time together!