This is the weekend of the Big Garden Birdwatch, where anybody, anywhere in the country is invited to count the birds in their garden, or ion a local park, for one hour, and send the results off to the RSPB. You don;t have to be a member of the RSPB to take part. It’s fun and it’s free, and an opportunity to learn about the birds that live in our garden – so when we heard about this from Grandma we decided to sign up.
We got ready for the birdwatch this week by reading about garden birds – there are so many lovely books suitable for very little children, but we used the RSPB’s My First Book of Garden Birds, which has a very sweet “who is hiding?” concept that kept the children nicely engaged since they loved guessing which bird was being described, and learnt a bit about each bird too. The RSPB Garden Birds Sticker Book was a nice matching activity and helped L (5) and N(3) get to grips with identifying some common garden birds.
We also made some snacks for the birds, to attract them to our bird table. We made fat balls by heating vegetable fat in a pan and adding bird seed and meal worms. Rather than rolling them into balls, Grandma told us it works better to make them in plastic cups and place them in a net bag, so this is what we did.
We also made two kinds of bird feeder. One very easy if slightly sticky method was brilliant for L and N to make independently. They each spread a toilet roll tube with peanut butter, then rolled it in bird seed. We hung these from the bird table and the birds loved them. It was very entertaining to watch them investigate the new food, check it out, keep coming back to it, getting closer each time, before one brave coal tit tried some, and the rest then tucked in.
Here are L and N making their bird feeders:
Meanwhile, F got involved by exploring some bird nuts inside a ziplock bag:
We also began making a bird feeder out of an empty juice carton. It would have been easy enough to make one like this from No Time for Flash Cards, except that I decided I liked the look of this pretty one, so ours are still wet with paint and unfinished, and daddy says they will scare away the birds, since N painted hers bright orange. Sometimes simplicity is best!
So the time came to count our birds! F loved looking out of the window and watching them. L and N were very excited and probably scared away a fair few birds! But they did enjoy keeping a simple tally.
The plan is to use these to make a pictogram of the birds in our garden.
Afterwards, we put together a garden birds sensory box, and had fun playing with that whilst learning a little bit about birds. So many of our sensory boxes are thrown together in five minutes, and work wonderfully well – this one took a little more thought and preparation, but I think it was worth it. Here we have a sensory box that gave the children the scope to use all five senses in bird-related play. I especially like this idea for F, since pretty much all her interaction with the world is sensory and it makes a lot of sense (no pun intended there) to stimulate all her senses. L and N seemed to appreciate it too, and it made things a bit more exciting and different.
My first idea had been to make some garden birds for a felt storyboard. But whilst searching for ideas on that theme, I came across some garden bird finger puppets and just had to have a go at making some.
It was actually quite achievable, and involved cutting the pieces out of felt and sticking them together with PVA glue – no sewing involved, although I may sew around the edges to strengthen the puppets against the children’s robust treatment of them.
This feels like such a fun and interactive way to teach L and N to recognise a few birds, and seems to be working already, since they were calling the birds by their correct names as they played.
The birds formed the basis of the sensory box, along with some basic features of their habitat:
A nest (made of sparkly gift packaging)
Some stones, under which some worms (pipecleaners cut to different lengths), ladybirds (card toppers), and squidgy insects (from L’s nature explorer kit) were hiding, ready for the birds to eat. We also included a tub of pom poms to represent berries.
Some water – we used a zip-lock bag filled with hair gel and blue glitter to form a cool, squishy pond. It also smelt lovely!
Some toilet roll tubes, since we used these to make bird feeders, and I thought they would be great for pouring. I put some cups in the box for a bird-feeding scooping and pouring activity. We used bird seed as a filler for the box, and added pinecones to represent trees. L and N were involved in putting the box together and were very good at telling me what the birds would need.
Lastly, I put together a “bird table” that the children could eat from, to go alongside the box. The snacks were slices of apple topped with peanut butter, topped with raisins, cranberries, blueberries, and muesli. This was the tasting element, and LI and N devoured their bird snacks – I wasn’t sure how adventurous they would be, and they did seem concerned that I was going to give them bird food! F mainly tipped hers on the floor and ate a bit of apple.
For really adventurous eaters it might be fun to try this blindfolded, and see if they can identify different berries, fruit, nuts etc. I also plan to make jelly worms this week, by pouring jelly into drinking straws, allowing it to set, then running under warm water to release the “worms”. L and N love eating spaghetti “wormsI” so I think this just might appeal to them.
When L and N began to play with the box, I gave them some tweezers and tongs to move objects around, like a bird in its beak. This was very popular, and I was surprised how easy they found it (I had included big tongs as well as little tweezers because I wasn’t sure if they would be able to manipulate the tweezers. next time I plan to give them tiny craft beads to move around (the kind even I find fiddly), to challenge them a bit more and really practise that pincer movement.
All three loved the squishy bag, which has inspired me to give them a range of different ones to play with.
A lot of creative play went on, with much feeding of baby birds. There is also a lot of scope with this box for sorting activities. I deliberately included pom poms of different sizes, and pipecleaners cut to different lengths, to allow for sorting of biggest to smallest etc.