My family loves spending plenty of time outdoors. It’s a great way to burn off energy and learn about the world around us. It also greatly improves our mental health. Hanging a bird feeder outside your home can be an environmentally conscious way to invite nature into your yard, allowing your kids to watch and learn about birds all day long.
My Daughter’s First Bird Feeding Experience
We have one bird feeder hanging in our back yard, and while it gets a lot of action in the winter, it’s been fairly quiet this summer. Birds (like the rest of us) seek shade in the summer, so we decided to hang a new feeder from a shady tree in our front yard.
I had my youngest daughter help me fill up the feeder. Sure, it would have been a lot quicker to do myself, but she had fun scooping and pouring. Toddlers love dumping, and this was a much better way for her to get that sensory and motor experience than getting into a 5LB bag of flour in the kitchen. There was a fair amount of seed on the ground when she was finished, but we got to watch birds enjoy that too.
We hung the bird feeder on the tree and waited. While it would have been fantastic to see a bird fly up right away, I clued my kids in that it may take a few days for the birds to notice it and feel comfortable enough to visit. This only added to the excitement when a day or two later, they spotted a chickadee eating out of it.
If you’re thinking about hanging up a feeder with your kids, here are a few tips to get you started:
Pick the Right Kind of Feeder
Do some research to find out what kind of feeder birds you have in your area. My kids were pretty disappointed the year we hung up a hummingbird feeder and didn’t see one all year long. While they aren’t unheard of where we live in the Rocky Mountain west, they don’t visit with the frequency required to impress kids.
If your kids get equally excited about squirrels and birds, a platform bird feeder is a great option. But, if they only want to see birds, look for a squirrel-resistant feeder.
Teach Your Kids How to Sneak Around
Nothing scares a bird faster than a kid running to the window yelling, “Look! A bird!” Teaching your kids how avoid scaring off birds before they get a chance to look at them might finally be the way that you get them to learn what “using your indoor voice” actually means.
Talk About Patience
Depending on the season, you might have a steady stream of visitors to your feeders. At other times, when wild food is more plentiful, you might not. This is a great chance to talk to kids about migration patterns, how birds look for different food sources, and the fact that nature is not at our beck and call.
Distinguish Feeding Birds From Feeding Other Wild Animals
Without some clarification, your kids might wonder why it’s okay to fill up a bird feeder, but not okay to leave food laying around your campsite. Talk to your kids about why it’s important to never feed other animals in the wild, lest they become reliant on human intervention. And be sure to follow best practices for feeding birds in your back yard: cleaning feeders regularly, choosing appropriate bird seed, and hanging feeders at least three feet from windows (for non-window bird feeders).
Use the Opportunity to Discuss Bird Characteristics
Birding in the wild can be challenging for kids, but observing them at a feeder gives you the opportunity to point out characteristics they might not otherwise notice. Ask them questions like: What color is that bird’s beak? Why do you think some birds fly away when other birds show up? What time of day have you noticed the most birds at the feeder?
Hanging a bird feeder in your yard can help strengthen your children’s connection with nature, and could be the start of a lifelong love of animals.