Grab Some “Bins” and Start Birdwatching with Your Kids

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Getting outside is the most valuable thing I do with my children. Each time we venture out as a family, I quickly forget the details it takes to get out the door. At some point, I exhale and it is worth it. Fresh air, laughter, and hitting the pause button on domestic tasks is rejuvenating. For me, pure joy is feeling connected as a family. Therefore, I am always looking for new ideas to bring us together outside. 

birding for kidsOn a cold and dreary afternoon in early January, my two year-old focused on a bright red cardinal.

Her fascination was intense! Unfortunately, I did not know the answers to some of her questions. Where is the nest? Why is the cardinal alone? Why is he red? Without much planning, we hatched an idea. (Pun intended!) We would create an area to learn more about local birds, and enjoy the entertainment. 

Hours of entertainment turned into hours of learning! During the holidays, adorable birdseed owls were gifted to my daughters. To start, we hung the owls in a perfect viewing spot – just outside a large window near our kitchen. It is located for easy viewing and impromptu learning extensions inside. Next, bird feeders joined the owls, housing a variety of seeds. Graphics like this one from a local nursery sit near the window for easy identification. 

Within a few days, nuthatches, blue jays, chickadees, and finches were daily visitors. We can now identify house sparrows, the common yellowthroat, and of course, squirrels!

You can find endless ideas to engage when birding with kids of any age. My oldest daughter focuses on identification, and this free app has been a big hit. My middle daughter loves to look for birds beyond our property now. We plan to take our “bins” to Odiorne State Park one afternoon and try to find the snowy owl that has recently been seen.

Did you know “bins” are what birders call binoculars?

Children’s bins are helpful for bird watching, they fit well in their little hands and adjust for their eyes. We love taking ours to the walking trails at the Great Bay Discovery Center in Greenland. Even though it is winter, several different species of birds can be seen in the estuary.

barred owl - birding for kidsBirdwatching for kids is a great way to connect life skills with learning. Plus, it can be done anywhere, anytime. 

As natural scientists, children do not need much scaffolding to observe, ask questions, and even gather data. Encouraging a love and respect for the natural world right outside our doors is important and very easy to accomplish! Even engage in some citizen science with your kids to make it even more amazing!

Enjoy being present in the moment with your children and build “academic” skills at the same time. Start birdwatching with your kids and see them practice these skills:

  • Noticing details: Encourage children to talk about what they see. Have them draw or sketch the birds, comparing and contrasting different species.
  • kids in snow outside with birds - birding with kidsIncreasing vocabulary: Children learn by doing, and bird watching activities expose children to a variety of new words they would not otherwise encounter.
  • Using reference materials: Older children can help younger children with guide books and the Merlin Bird ID app, reinforcing their own skilled use of reference materials.
  • Building critical thinking muscles: Model by leading with “I wonder” types of thoughts to show how to extend thinking. 

Soon, your child will surprise you with insights and observations about birds wherever you go! Start birdwatching with your kids today!

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A NH native, Carolyn Prien spent 15 years in NYC and Boston as an elementary teacher and independent school administrator. When her oldest was a year old, she and her husband Justin made the decision to move back to where they could be at the beach or the mountains easily – why choose? Now a mama to three energetic girls, ages 6, 4, and 2, Carolyn spends her days trying to stay in the “thrive” zone with her family as opposed to the “survive” zone. She works part time at the NH Literacy Institutes at UNH and is inspired by the teachers and professors who are equally passionate about education. Nearby grandmothers are her crutch, along with running, her backyard, a minivan, and shameless online shopping. She is always in the middle of a book, because sometimes at the end of the day she just needs to read in silence.

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