The Most Exciting Kids Activity All Year Round

Karen Patten

The splendid creature outstretched its wings and dove toward the water. I was at the waterline and my son was about 10 feet from me on the beach – I hissed his name as quietly and excitedly as I could all at the same time – hoping I was loud enough to catch his attention and quiet enough not to halt the phenomenon that I was sure was about to occur. The creature was an osprey, a large bird of prey, and it was diving toward the water only about 20 feet from the shoreline…

Bird watching is the most exciting lifetime hobby and it's perfect to start when your children are young. Young children are naturally curious and are sponges for knowledge. They love animals and so it just seems like a perfect fit! www.themidlifemamas.com

As an ecologist, my father has alway been obsessed with bird watching. When I was young, we travelled a lot in Europe with his job. We would be driving on narrow switchback roads in the Alps, and my father (the driver) would stop watching the road and say “Look! A bird!!!” And then he would try to figure out what it was while he swerved back toward the center of his lane. My mother was constantly terrified that she would personally learn the details of Grace Kelly’s tragic death and I thought my dad was a nut job.

But no matter how much he loved bird watching, his brother loved it more. It is a life time passion for him and it took him to the far corners of the world to develop his lifetime bird list. Enter my older son – and he has always loved watching birds and knowing their names. When he was two and a half, my uncle came to visit. My uncle asked him if he could see the “red bird” out the window. My son sighed and said “That is NOT a red bird. It’s a cardinal!”

My Child Will NOT Enjoy Bird Watching…I’m Sure of It.

Bird watching can be an amazing lifetime hobby and it's perfect to start when your children are young. Young children are naturally curious and are sponges for knowledge. They love animals and so it just seems like a perfect fit! You can make bird watching fun in so many ways - you could craft your own bird feeder. www.themidlifemamas.com #birdwatching #familytraditions

Children love crafts – this one will encourage the birds to come visit!

But are you really sure your children won’t like bird watching? Children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for and their minds are open and excited to try new things!! What’s more fun than going on a treasure hunt or an adventure? Do your children love pirates? Go on a hunt for the lost pirate parrot! Will you find the parrot? How will you know if the bird you find is a parrot or not?

That’s what bird watching is all about – the treasure hunt! They never know what they will find, if it will be new or a bird they already know, or they might need to do some research with mom or dad when they come home to figure out what bird they saw. If they want, they can always draw or paint pictures of the birds they saw, search for feathers or bird nests… The possibilities are endless!

Children can craft bird houses and bird feeders. Most home improvement stores have kits to build a bird house. And many have weekend programs for little ones to attend and make a feeder while they are there! Children can put gross and fine motor skills to work building houses, feeders, or bird baths. Here’s an oldie but a goodie: fine a pine cone. Tie a piece of string or yarn around the top. Spread peanut butter all over the pine cone and then roll it in bird seed. Tie your “feeder” to a tree and watch the birds flock around!

What Will My Children Learn from Bird Watching?

Bird watching can be an amazing lifetime hobby and it's perfect to start when your children are young. Young children are naturally curious and are sponges for knowledge. They love animals and so it just seems like a perfect fit! You can make bird watching fun in so many ways. There's nothing more amazing than being able to watch a bird caring for their babies in the spring! www.themidlifemamas.com #birdwatching #familytraditions

Bird watching is such a great learning tool! Children enjoy everything about this hobby – they love animals, they enjoy the outdoors and time with a parent, they love searching for things (think hide and seek), and, frankly, critters that fly are just cool. Children can learn so many things directly from bird watching:

Diversity: Each bird has its own niche and coexists with other birds and animals in the same habitat. Children learn that everyone can contribute to their family and their community in a unique and meaningful way.

Environmental Responsibility: Children who are taught about birding and who enjoy birding will grow into adults that care deeply about our environment. They may also choose to become involved in youth programs aimed at conservation.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum (Senegalese Forestry Engineer)

Geography: Birds are found on every continent on earth. Most species migrate (seasonal movement).

Adaptation: Birds in different locations all have different and specific adaptations that they have made to thrive in their environment.

Food Chain: “All birds need to eat, but not all birds eat the same things. Young birders who actively feed backyard birds can quickly learn about the food chain, and studying other wild birds can teach kids about predators, prey and the natural balance in food populations.” (source)

Flight: Animals that fly are naturally intriguing. Bird watching will teach children that different birds fly in different ways. Some catch wind currents and soar gracefully, while others dip and dive, while still others like the hummingbirds have such rapid wingbeats that they look more like insects. Watching birds can help children begin to understand the mechanics of flight. They can also examine the benefits of different methods of flight.

History: “The birds in the backyard may be here and now, but studying birds can actually teach kids a lot about history. Bird mascots, state birds and other symbols all have historical significance, and learning about extinct birds can connect human history with wildlife history.” (source)

Why Should I Introduce My Children to Bird Watching?

This is a video of an osprey fishing. It’s what my son and I were lucky enough to witness from the beach. Seeing something like this and understanding what is happening is truly an awe-inspiring experience.

Children benefit from bird watching by developing a love for learning; an appreciation for multiple scientific disciplines; hiking is great exercise; and finally, being outside in nature provides innumerable and immeasurable benefits. In addition everything that they learn directly about the natural world, bird watching provides children with an opportunity to develop really important life skills.  (source)

Studying birds and learning how to be a birder can teach kids great secondary skills, such as:

  • Observation skills to find birds in the wild
  • Listening skills to identify birds by their songs
  • Deduction when comparing two challenging bird species
  • Research skills for following clues to a bird’s identity
  • Patience when waiting for birds to appear

How Do We Start Bird Watching?

Bird watching can be an amazing lifetime hobby and it's perfect to start when your children are young. Young children are naturally curious and are sponges for knowledge. They love animals and so it just seems like a perfect fit! You can make bird watching fun in so many ways - children can "take charge" of caring for the birds in your yard. www.themidlifemamas.com #birdwatching #familytraditions

Children love caring for creatures. And you don’t even have to get a kitten!

Just step outside! That’s all you have to do to start. You don’t need any fancy equipment or skills. As you begin to see a few birds, you can do more and more to encourage them to come to your yard. Birds need shelter, water, food, and a place to raise their families, so if you provide those four things – they will come. Researching favorite treats for various species can help you attract that bird that you’ve just been waiting to find. Try to place feeders close enough to windows that you can enjoy the show the birds will put on for you. That’s really all  you need to get started. I have some other, more specific, suggestions for you at the bottom of this post.

If you want a great app for identifying more common birds, the Audubon Society has a free app that you can download!

At the end of the day, I need to spoil my children with “luxuries” such as bird watching because they are so enriching for children and adults alike. Children learn so many things from being outdoors and witnessing nature. But I also think that the enjoyment my boys get from birding is something that their grandfather and I teach.  It’s something that Grandpa, uniquely, can pass down to them for a lifetime. It’s passed down for them to enjoy during their lifetime going forward and as a tradition with their grandfather that reaches back into the past. I really enjoy sharing our family traditions and hearing about yours!

Learning Through Adventure Series

Over 25 bloggers have gotten together this month to share their favorite ways to Learn Through Adventure with their children. There will be 30 new posts about learning through adventure with children. Hop over to Bambini Travel each day to see the most recent post!

Here are some great products to help further your bird watching once you’ve gotten started. (Affiliate links)

12 Comments

  1. Erin Buhr on October 12, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    What amazing childhood experiences you had! My kids have enjoyed bird watching this year. Even just in our backyard we have some different species. Woodpeckers are their favorites. Thank you so much for sharing in the Learning Thru Adventure hop!



  2. Hillary Cole on October 13, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Karen I can honestly say I would have never thought about bird watching for my girls. I never thought about it even being fun! But I love all of your points about the fun and educational aspects of it…thank you for a totally new perspective!



  3. Michelle @ Dishes and Dust Bunnies on October 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I used to do a bit of bird watching as a kid with my grandfather and I have very fond memories of it. It’s a great way for kids to learn something new! Thanks so much for linking up this post over at #TheHappyHomeLife linky party!



    • Karen Patten on October 19, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      It seems a little nerdy, maybe it is, but we really enjoy it as a family activity. We all enjoy being outside and it gives us something to search for and learn about. It’s been a really fun experience!



  4. Jacquie on October 23, 2015 at 11:21 am

    We love birdwatching! There is a set of cardinals who live in our yard in the winter and we had a mama and baby hawks stay with us this Spring (we were able to observe the mother teaching the babies to fly!) I can remember sitting near the window for hours when my kids were young and watching the birds come to the feeder. I LOVE your bird feeder too!



    • Karen Patten on December 10, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      GASP! I would love to see a mama teaching babies to fly!!! We were so lucky to have a robin’s nest about 5 feet off of our deck and we were able to watch mama feeding and taking care of her babies – but never saw her teaching them to fly!!! I’ll have to research, but I’m hoping that she’ll come back to her same nest next year 🙂



  5. […] and enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty of an amazing place. A bonus for us in this house is the amazing bird watching. There’s such an interesting show going on outside our window at any given […]



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  7. Mother of 3 on February 20, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    We love bird watching; my son has two bird feeders that are suction cupped to his bedroom windows. It has been so much fun watching to see which ones come to visit! We just recently bought a birdhouse that suction cups to windows as well and have plans to get a hummingbird feeder this spring.



  8. Millie Hue on June 1, 2018 at 2:00 am

    Wow, I never took into account that kids can also go bird watching with us. I love that you emphasized how birding can benefit a child mentally and physically. Like you said, they will have a love for learning and will be fit due to hiking. This just gave me the idea on what to do with them this summer. Actually, my kids are adventure seekers. They would probably love going into the woods and looking for birds. Thanks for the information!



    • Karen Patten on June 3, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Yay!!! Enjoy! I love that you can literally look for birds anywhere!!!



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Welcome!

Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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