Bird-Watching Gets Kids Outdoors
Sometimes it’s hard to get kids outdoors, but bird-watching is a perfect solution. In this age of smartphones, social media, and video games, there’s plenty to do from home. But we want our children to breathe fresh air, to exercise, to connect with nature. Luckily, birding has the allure to divert attention away from electronic screens and toward our feathered friends. Making this hobby even better, it’s easy and can be totally free. All you have to do is introduce it.
How to Start
It seems as if birds are everywhere, so chances are good that you can begin in your own backyard. A simple suggestion of “Let’s go bird-watching” might get the kids outdoors. But even if it takes a bit of coaxing, the children will be entranced as soon as they observe their first bird.
To hold their interest, make it interactive. Keep a running total of how many birds you encounter. Ask questions like “What colors do you see?” and “What is the bird doing?” Bring a pencil and paper, so the children can write notes and draw pictures.
If you’d like to prolong your outdoor activities, turn your backyard birding into a “bird walk,” which means moving to a few different places to look for them. To keep your kids outdoors for longer, plan ahead. Find out which locations near you are hotspots—a bird walk is only fun if you see birds! The best sites could be anywhere from a park to a friend’s backyard full of feeders.
As I mentioned earlier, you can start without any equipment at all—or with just pencil and paper. However, there are two things that greatly enhance the enjoyment of this most popular of outdoor activities.
1. Field Guide: Seeing a bird is fun, but it becomes even more exciting if your children can look it up in a book. They get to do a bit of detective work as they attempt to identify the bird. (Adventure Publications’ Bird Identification Guides are wonderful for this because the species are organized by color.) Then the kids can read a few paragraphs of text to learn more about each new bird-watching discovery.
2. Binoculars: The thrill of using binoculars is enough to get my kids outdoors. Couple that with the fact that they can see birds that are in the distance or up in trees—without scaring the birds away—it’s a wonderful way to make birding even better.
More Fun Products
AdventureKEEN has plenty of amazing products for birders. If your children show an interest, I recommend picking up Bird Log Kids. It is a guided journal that asks specific questions to get kids thinking about their experiences and observations. Cooking for the Birds is a fun way to combine cooking together in the kitchen with bird-watching. The Birds of quick guides are pocket-size I.D. guides, and the Birds of playing cards double as flash cards.