Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Set up an urban bird feeding station with a toddler (for picky urban birds)

Garlic towers is ready for our first feathery patrons
A rainy weekday afternoon and an overexcited toddler with energy to burn combine brilliantly to mean one thing - bird feeders! We had a birdfeeder outside our sitting room window before we embarked on our harebrained scheme to gut and refurbish our entire house last year. For almost the entirety of 2016 it was therefore replaced with a skip, more rubble that I can believe honestly came from this house and a variety of builders pretending they weren't murdering our garden. However, now that the trauma is over, we are ready to do our bit to help sustain the urban bird population. Usually the closest we come to seeing birdlife in our part of South West London is the carpet of chicken bones spread all over the pavements after the weekend (horrible, like a chicken genocide. Chicken shops that serve drunken patrons have a lot to answer for). Garlicboy got a bird spotting book for his birthday last year and so I was keen to set a feeder up by our window where he could learn to identify the birds that come to visit. So I've had our feeder and some nuts and seeds ready and waiting for a rainy day. This is such a fantastic activity for a toddler as they can really get involved by filling the feeders and helping to make the suet / fat bird cakes. First we made the suet bird feeders using the RSPB recipe as a guide that we adapted for what we had at home. I find the RSPB schools guide a really good source of inspiration when looking for activities to do with GarlicBoy. 

To make fat balls / suet bird cakes

We used:
Two small yoghurt pots (washed out)
String (a long loop)
Birdseed (we used these RSPB seeds we found on Amazon)
Suet (I happened to have some of this suet in the fridge but I'm sure any brand would work)



Steps:
1. Melt the suet over a very low heat. Open the windows and resist the urge to gag repeatedly - the smell is pretty vile. Cats appear to swoon with delight over this smelly greasy stuff so try to keep them off the oven. GarlicBoy enjoyed watching me stir this and seeing the bits of suet melting (from a safe distance on his little ladder of course)
2. Have your toddler / young child fill the pots about half full of seeds. GarlicBoy loved this and more seeds when on the floor than in the pots but running his hands through the seeds and pouring them into pots by the handful all added to the sensory fun for him
3. Carefully pour the liquid suet onto the seeds, making sure any little people are out of the potential splash zone
4. Under careful supervision, let the toddler / child stir the suet into the seeds. GarlicBoy really enjoyed doing this but I had to take care that he didn't touch the sides of the yoghurt pots (which were seriously hot!)
5. Then I added the string loops, made sure the string was submerged in the suet mixture and put them both in the fridge to solidify

Whilst the bird cakes were hardening, I got out the bird seed and peanuts and gave them to GarlicBoy with a spoon and a tiny cup so that he could fill our feeders. This was a fantastic activity and he really enjoyed filling them using his hands, a spoon and the cup. Again, it was really messy but he had a ball and the seeds etc liberally carpeting the floor were easily hoovered up in a couple of minutes when we were done. We then did puzzles and played with his trains and did some reading for a couple of hours until the bird feeders were hardened and then just before supper we went out to the front garden and set up our larger bird feeding station (complete with a small dish of water). As of going to press not a single local bird has visited our feeding station (the small, feathery ingrates...) but we remain hopeful and our RSPB bird book for children is stored by the window in readiness so that we can start our ornithological adventures together as soon as the birds decide to play ball. 


How children can get involved in this activity:
- Playing with and scooping seeds and peanuts into feeders (and seeds into the yoghurt pots for the fat feeders). REMEMBER to supervise your child closely because if they're anything like mine they'll try to inhale the nuts which could be a choking hazard.
- Stirring the seeds into the liquid suet. Again, the suet will be hot so please keep a close eye on them, don't let them touch the sides of the pot and keep an eye on their stirring speed so they don't get splashed. 
- Filling the bird dish with water
- Hanging the feeders (if lifted up)
- Identifying any feathery visitors!
- Learning about helping wildlife in the winter






Disclaimer: The activities suggested on this blog are suggestions only. You know your child and their abilities best and should always supervise any activities closely. Also please note that I am an Amazon affiliate. You can learn more about my affiliate status here.

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