If there’s one worthwhile thing we can do for the next generation, it’s to pass on an appreciation of the natural world. A brilliant way of doing this is getting your toddler involved with bird watching.
Birds are everywhere, whether you have a garden or not, you’ll see (and hear) them flying overhead or perched in trees while out walking, or pecking at crumbs when you visit the playground. Just looking out the window, sooner or later you’ll see birds.
They come in all sorts of varieties and colours, making them genuinely interesting to little ones. You may have already noticed your tot pointing when they see a bird soar past, or asking about the tweeting they can hear.
Matt Merritt, editor of our sister brand Bird Watching Magazine says, “Birdwatching is the perfect way to get children to engage with the natural world for the simple reason that birds are, in most places, the most ubiquitous, obvious, and easily watched of all living things.
“Garden birdwatching is a great way for them to start. By putting up a feeder or two and putting out bird food, children will not only do birds a big favour (some familiar garden species are in serious need of help), but they’ll also be able to learn about them at their leisure, and will soon realise that there’s an ever-changing avian soap opera going on just outside the back door every day. Above all, they’ll see that watching birds is fun and constantly surprising, as well as educational.”
If you’d like to start encouraging your little one’s interest in bird watching, here are some useful tips and gear to help them spread their wings…
Bird watching tips for children
Start off by reminding your child that birds can be hard to spot, but easy to hear. Have them close their eyes and listen. Can they point to where the song is coming from?
Binoculars can be very hard for young children to learn how to use. Instead, focus on staying still and looking for the movements of birds and other animals. Or make a pair of DIY cardboard binoculars to get your kid into practice.
Let them lead – outdoor exploration is a great opportunity to encourage independence.
Make it a game – challenge your toddler to a scavenger hunt, getting them to spot as many birds as possible. There are lots of places to print off activity sheets, such as this download from the RSPB.
There are also lots of apps you can use while out and about to help you identify birds and bird songs.
You don't really need anything to start bird watching, but if you would like to get your tot more interested, these may help:
My First Book of Garden Birds
Rachel Lockwood's wonderful illustrations will delight children, and will help them to discover and identify the most common birds in their everyday surroundings. Each bird is introduced on a right-hand page in an illustration where it is partly obscured or turned away from the viewer. The text gives some clues and invites readers to guess the bird's identity. The reader then turns the page to find out more.
RSPB Puffin Jr Binoculars
Matt recommends these binoculars by the RSPB, “They’re very popular with children and are fine for garden birding”. Puffin Jrs have the exceptional build quality of adult binoculars, with a lightweight body especially designed for smaller hands and faces.
DMbaby Binoculars for Kids
These compact binoculars are designed for children, with soft rubber surrounded eyepieces and shock proof (as they'll most likely be dropped at some point). Despite being designed for kids they work very nicely and produce a clear sharp image.
Peckish Wild Bird Complete Seed Mix and Feeder
This feeder is ready to use, filled with a complete seed and nut mix which will attract a large variety of birds to your garden. Simply hang it in a tree or from a hook and wait for the birds to gather for their breakfast!
Gardman Paint Your Own Bird Feeder
If you'd like to get a bit more creative, or enjoy any excuse to get crafty - why not paint your own bird feeder. Your child will love personalising their very own feeder for the birds. This set comes with 4 non-toxic paints and two brushes, a feeder made from FSC certified Timber, with lovely illustrated packaging showing what birds may come to visit once the feeder is in use.
Little Pals Bird Watching Set
This set is the full bird watching package, complete with paint your own bird feeder, binoculars and bird spotter book, as well as an owl shaped feeder and a twitchers carry bag. So you can explore the towns and countryside ticking off all the birds inside the book, encourage birds into your garden and keep your bird watching kit together on trips out.