The return of migratory birds is our family’s most celebrated event of spring. The first sighting of robin red breast ignites a special magic. “The birds are back!”
My six-year-old is enthralled with the construction techniques of bird nests. My five-year-old daughter delights in imitating different bird calls. We can be distracted by a roaring train and my two-year-old son will still say, “Hear it, mama? Birds!”
We always throw bird guides and binoculars in our nature bags this time of year and journal what we find.
We’ve also gathered abandoned nests for our nature table, added flight to our inspiration wires, and made wings of our own in honor of our winged friends’ return. Here I share a few of our favorite seasonal activities in celebration of our feathered friends.
Bird Display Clips
We have inspiration wires in each child’s room and in our homeschool room. These are simply pieces of wool yarn tacked to the wall and adorned with clothespins for hanging artwork and other bits of inspiration, laundry-line style.
To spruce up our wires for spring I printed off different black and white pictures of birds for my two-year-old to color. My older son drew and colored his own. My daughter chose to clip bird images from magazines. Then we glued the pictures on wood clothespins. The clips on our wires suddenly looked as inspiring as what they were holding!
Collect Abandoned Nests
On our early spring nature table display abandoned bird nests. There’s something inspiring about the work that goes into these tiny homes, all done by creatures without hands. We’ve studied our nests a hundred times and still have not tired of them.
A few tips make nest collecting enjoyable for your children and the birds:
:: First, never collect a nest that is in use. It is usually best to collect nests in late winter and early spring when the trees are leafless and it is obvious which nests are last year’s.
:: It is especially fun to collect nests from your own yard when you have been able to watch birds living in them all summer.
:: With some nests it is best to cut off the branch and nest together. The position of the nest on the branch and its method of attachment are helpful in identification and are as interesting as the construction of the actual nest. Keeping the nest in its branch will also keep it from falling apart. You can nail the branch to a board for display. We chose to bury ours in a bowl of rocks to anchor it. If cutting off the branch isn’t feasible, place the nest on a plate or in a box to help hold its shape and to collect litter.
My children love imitating birds with their very own sets of wings. You can make your own wings as big or as small, as elaborate or as simple as you want. All you need is felt.
To make, fold a length of felt in two that is as least as long and at least a little wider than your child’s arm. Cut out a wing shape with one wide end, one narrow. (See photos for ideas.) Trace the shape you cut onto another length of folded felt the same color and cut again. Separate the four cut pieces into two wings.
Sew each wing together, leaving the narrow end open for little arms. Essentially you’re just sewing a big arm, pocket-shaped like a wing. You can leave the seam showing or turn the wing inside out to hide it.
Sew a few inches of ribbon or yarn at the arm holes to connect the wings. This keeps them from getting lost and makes them easy to hang.
Decorate the wings with pieces of felt cut out to look like feathers. Your children are ready to fly! Hand- and machine-sewing are both adequate for this project. I machine-sewed the wings and hand-stitched the feathers.
Arianne Cope is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and photographer living in scenic Southern Utah. She homeschools her four children and blogs about her journey to become a more mindful parent at Still Parenting.