Getting children interested in bird watching is a great way of introducing them to wildlife and teaching them about the environment and the importance of nature conservation.
Luckily bird watching is an inexpensive hobby and one that can be done anywhere so it is simple to get them involved and you won’t feel that you have wasted a lot of money or effort if your child realises it is not something for them. We’ve compiled a list of bird watching activities for them to complete to help them get closer to nature and understand more about the birds that live all around us.
You also need to teach your children some safety tips. Make sure they know the importance of keeping quiet when they go out bird watching and not to wander off in search of a siting in dense woods, rocky terrains or near water. You should also make sure they know not to disturb nests and baby birds.
An RSPB Junior Membership costs just £15 a year and is a great way for children to find out a lot more about their new hobby. As well as getting a fantastic welcome pack they will also receive magazines packed with information throughout the year and the RSPB run many activity days for children and families to learn more about birds.
Use your child’s new hobby as a way of teaching them about other things. For example, on a globe or a map have your child trace migratory routes of birds and as they learn about birds habitats you can teach them more about wildlife conservation and the impact man has on the environment.
The best place for kids to start bird watching is in their back garden. If you’ve cultivated a bird-friendly garden, then you should have plenty of birds already visiting. Point out the different species of birds that visit, teaching them their names and the different features they need to look for to help with identification.
Encourage your children to help when you feed the birds. Let them break up food into manageable pieces and fill up the bird table and feeders. Your child will enjoy having their own special bird feeder and you can find some that come in novelty designs and colours that children can call their own.
The best place for kids to start bird watching is in their back garden. If you’ve already cultivated a bird-friendly garden, then you should have plenty of birds visiting. Begin to point out the different species of birds that visit, teaching them their names and the different features then need to look for to help with identification.
Encourage your children to help when you feed the birds. Let them break up food into manageable pieces and fill the bird table and feeders. Your children will enjoy having their own special bird feeder and you can find some that come in novelty designs and colours that children can call their own.
Alternatively, they could try making their own bird food. Fat feeders are simple and fun to make and can be moulded into all sorts of shapes. They could also try threading peanuts and fruit onto string, cutting out pieces of toast with cookie cutters and spreading with peanut butter, or filling an empty halved orange skin or coconut shell with treats. If you’re brave you could even help your children to start breeding their own mealworms!
Set aside a patch for your child where they can grow plants and flowers for birds and insects. A mix of wildflowers and grasses will grow quickly and provide seeds and a splash of colour in the garden. Sunflowers are fun to grow, and birds will enjoy eating the seeds they produce.
If you don’t have a garden, then take them to the local park. Many parks have areas given over to encouraging wildlife and birds where you might be lucky enough to spot something a bit more unusual. Children will enjoy feeding ducks at a local pond but don’t take bread. Sweetcorn, peas, and grapes are good alternatives, or you can buy specialist duck and swan food.
To get started bird watching all kids need are their eyes and their ears. However, if you want to help your children get the most out of their hobby, then a pair of binoculars and a book will help.
There are many good bird watching books on the market including ones specifically written for children. Choose one with lots of colourful pictures and descriptions of common birds that children are most likely to see when they’re out bird watching. Activity guides will keep them engaged and interested and a space to take notes will help them personalise the book.
You may also want to encourage your child to keep a scrapbook or journal. Here they can note down or draw the birds they have seen or wish to see. Encourage them to write stories or poems about birds real or imaginary, and to cut out and keep pictures from magazines, or collect feathers and other interesting things they have found.
If your children are very young, consider getting them a sticker or colouring book instead. Helping them to learn the names of birds is a fun way of teaching them the alphabet or for older children how sounds make up words.
Incorporate a bird book into your bedtime reading routine. Take them through a bird identification book pointing out the different colours and parts of the bird. Or find a story book centred around birds or the natural environment.
For adults, a pair of binoculars is an essential piece of bird watching kit, and although it’s nice to share, children will love having their own binoculars. It’s a lot more fun to look at a bird together when you can both can see it and you won’t have to spend time in between turns adjusting the focus.
Unfortunately, many binoculars marketed as children’s binoculars are little more than functionless toys. They won’t offer much in the way of magnification, and even if they do, they won’t be sturdy enough for a child who’s serious about bird watching.
Kid’s binoculars can be just as powerful as adult binoculars – they just need to be smaller and lighter. However, be aware that children shouldn’t use high magnification optics so anything over 10x is not recommended. Children will also struggle to obtain a stable image with high power binoculars.
Whatever binoculars you choose make sure they are designed for little hands and light enough for your child to hold up to their eyes for extended periods. Ideally, they should be waterproof in case they end up in a puddle, and well protected against knocks and bumps.
Before your child goes on their first bird watching trip, teach them how to use their binoculars properly and how to keep them clean. Practise looking at the birds that visit your garden or take them to the local park so they can start spotting birds from greater distances.
If your child starts to get serious about their hobby, they may want to carry their binoculars everywhere they go. Invest in a good neck strap to prevent strain or a carrying case to keep them safe and dry.