I love spring! Everything is fresh and new. The air smells clean with a hint of perfume. My lungs can’t seem to get enough of the sweet, fresh air as I take in gulps to quench the thirst ending the long days of Winter.   Warm rays of sunshine kiss my face and spring winds tease my hair into funny hairdos.  Everywhere I look new growth is bursting forth.  The brightly greening grass lays a foundation for spring flowers displaying a rainbow of colors creating a feast for the eyes.  Birds serenade with their songs, spring peepers play a concert each night, insects begin to add a hum as they collect pollen and the senses become overloaded with joy.  Yes, I love spring!

This is a great time of the year to teach children about life outdoors.

 So, lay down the electronic devices,

step outside (explore your yard or go to a park or nature reserve)

and investigate the wonders of nature! 

Here are a few activities you might enjoy. 
They contain science, math, art and English principals. 
But don’t tell the kids. 
Let it be their surprise when they are one step ahead in school!

1.  Bird Watching

Several posts ago we introduced bird nest enhancers.  Now is  the time to start searching for nest building activity.  Did any of your nest enhancers get chosen by your birds?  Watch the behavior of the birds in your area?  See if you can identify the types of birds you see.  Do you have a book on the types of birds that live in your area?  If not, why not take a trip to the library and check one out?

What are the habits of the birds you see?  Can you catch one building a nest?  It is really fun to watch a nest being formed and extremely fascinating to watch.  To think each bird has the blueprints for the perfect nest inside their heads!  And different birds build their nests differently based on their needs.

We have a Phoebe that builds her next above our front door every spring.  The first year she was quite messy.  We have noticed that she is improving each year.  It is made of moss, small twigs and mud starting out small at the bottom and getting bigger at the top like a misshapen cone.  It sits on a very tiny ledge above our front door.  It is an amazing architectural feat!  We gave up trying to stop her and have detoured traffic to the side door for the duration of building, laying, hatching and launching babies.  The entertainment and educational benefit far outweighs the inconvenience.

 

 
 
It was a great afternoon the day we noticed a wren trying to get sticks into the small wooden bird house by our deck.  A great lesson in patience and persistence could have been learned from that little bird.  Long sticks would go up and down, back and forth and eventually disappear into the tiny hole.  The bird would fly away, select a new stick and repeat the process.  No rest breaks for this tiny bird!  It stuck with its goal for hours until satisfied that the job was done well. 
 
 
What a wonderful launch into a discussion about important character traits with your child.
Of course, you won’t call it that, but casually slip in what an admirable quality that is for
both birds and people! So, not only are your studying biology, science and architecture, you can add character development… all from watching a tiny determined bird build a nest.
That’s pretty amazing! That reminds me of a saying my mom use to drill into me as a child.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.
This little bird rebuilt the same nest numerous times last Spring due to the destruction by a predator- ironically another type of bird!. We were heartbroken. However, each attempt displayed the same determination. On the other hand, what a valuable lesson about life to be shared with your child. Life isn’t always fair or easy. Unfortunately, bad things happen. The important thing is how you respond to those events. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to those events.
 A positive attitude is everything and makes a world of difference!
And here we thought we were just talking about birds!
Nature has so many life lessons built in. It would be so sad to not learn from that example. 
 

Bird Watching Activities for Kids:  

 
1.  Read a book about birds in your area. 
      One day when my youngest was about 5 years old, he came screaming into the house carrying
      a bird nest he had found laying in the yard after a storm.  “Mom!” he screamed.  “Look what
      I found!  Do we have a book about this?”
 
     Kids love to learn new information about their world.  Be ready!  Have information available
     for when they ask questions.  They are tiny sponges and we need to be prepared to help
     satisfy their inquisitive minds.  Curiosity is a precursor for learning!  Learning begins at home.
 
2.  Watch with binoculars – observation
 
3.  Journal bird’s activity – behaviors, food (bugs, seeds, nectar, etc.)  , shelter , colors, interaction
      with other birds (are they territorial?)
 
4.  Predict birds behaviors
 
5.  Chart activity
 
6.  If you are watching a nest being built – guess (predict) what materials will be used, how long will
      it take to complete, when will eggs be hatched and how many (peek but don’t disturb!).  What
      color will the eggs be? How long until they hatch?  Who sits on the eggs?  The male, female or
      both?  How many eggs will hatch?  How many babies will live?  How long until the babies leave
      the nest?
 
7.  If you have a feeder:  predict the number of different kinds of birds that visit in a certain time
     period.  Notice the eating behaviors of each type of bird.  If feeding a seed mixture, do some birds
    like only certain seeds?  How do the birds open up the seeds?  Do they take multiple seeds and
    hide them in their craw or open the seed at the feeder?
 
8.  Draw pictures of the birds – provide plenty of paper with crayons, colored pencils, water colors,
      etc.
 
9.  Photograph the birds
 
10. Create stories about the birds
 
11.  Name the birds and make-up stories about their lives and families (story telling)
 
 

2.   Go on a Bud Hunt

All winter long the trees and bushes have tiny little buds on them, so small you cannot see them.  Each bud is covered in multiple layers to keep them from freezing, similar to when we dress in layers outside to keep warm.  Then when the nights are below freezing and the days are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, all the stored sugar flows up from the roots into the tiny buds providing them with energy.  Then as they feed on this plant sugar, they grow.  And just as when children grow, their clothes get too short and tight; the little buds growtoo, loosening their many jackets.  And then one day they burst open with a baby leaf!
 
A fun activity for kids is to go on a “Bud Hunt”.  Take a walk around your yard or nearest park and look at the trees and bushes.  Take note of what you see or maybe even a picture.  With I-phones this can become a very fun, easy activity.  Take a picture of a few specimens.  Note the date and what is observed.  Have kids predict how long it will take for the buds to emerge fully.  Notice the temperature, rain and cloud covering during this time.  Did each specimen respond the same way?
Don’t forget to find (check out of your local library) a book about the plants you see.  Can you identify the ones you see?  Do they like sun or shade, wet or dry?
 
 
Photo source:  commons.wikimedi.org
 
 
Now, if most of your trees and bushes have already leafed out, this can easily be adapted to flowers and their buds.   Take a look at a rosebush, tulip, zinnia, daisy or whatever flower you have available and begin your prediction, observation and conclusions.  Don’t forget to enjoy their smell and beauty also!
 
Keeping a journal, photography, drawing and storytelling are all activities that can be applied to buds too!
 
Why not add a little dramatic play in there?   Little children may enjoy becoming (pretending) a seed or bulb.  Have them “crouch down into a tight body ball.  Slowly pretend to grow into whatever plant you want to be.  A majestic oak tree, a beautiful rose, daisy or even a carrot!  Add music for a touch of drama!” 
 
Source- Miraculous, Magical Moments in Minutes:  Over 500 Quick, Easy Activities for Adults and Children to Share by Becky Baxa
 

3.  Plant some seeds or bulbs. 

Plant some flowers or a garden with your children.  It could be as simple as a pot in the window sill or on your porch/deck; or as elaborate as a plot in your yard.   Plant and watch.  While you watch your seeds, chart the germination (how fast did they come up?) Note the weather conditions and daily temperatures.  How much water was given? 
 
Watering and weeding plants are a great way to teach responsibility.  This will lead to a powerful dose of positive self-esteem and satisfaction – both for your children and you! 
 
If planting with smaller children, why not stick a few silk flowers into the soil until the real plant comes up? Or, start with tiny plants instead of seeds. 

 4.  Go for a walk, hike or bicycle outing.

Become detectives on your walk or ride.  What do you see, hear, smell, feel?   Take the same route at different times.  Do you see, hear and smell the same things?   What if you walked the same route every week at the same time?  Would your observations change?  What new things pop up?  What is different or the same?
 
Not only does this foster observation skills and  appreciation for nature, it is also a very healthy activity strengthening your body and heart.  Plus, it has the exact combination for a perfect activity.  Why not give it a try?

What other ideas can you think of to enjoy Spring with your children?

 

Happy Spring! 🙂 

 
This post is inspired by the book:

Miraculous, Magical Moments in Minutes:

Over 500 Quick, Easy Activities for Adults and Children to Share

by Becky Baxa
Available from http://www.Amazon.com
in both Kindle and Paperback versions
 

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