Bird Watch

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Veronika adores birds right now, whether the tweets she hears on our walks or spotting them out the window. So as a follow-up to a few easy bird feeders we recently made, we thought about birds in a few other ways today.

First up: just listening to their sounds! I put a CD of bird song on Spotify as we sat down together to…

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…read a bird book! She has a great board book about birds, and right now we have to sit and go through it at least twice a day.

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We repeated a favorite bird feeder (pine cones rolled in peanut butter and sunflower seeds), and also made a string of unsalted circle pretzels on yarn. She loved hanging this one from our tree.

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Now when the birds come, we stop to watch through the window!

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A final fun idea is to leave a few pieces of yarn on your back patio. Birds use them this time of year for nests.

 

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Maybe we’ll even spot a colorful strand on a future walk around the neighborhood.

Bird Busy Box

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If you’re not familiar with “busy boxes”, the idea is to fill a small craft bin with just a few supplies, from which a toddler can keep occupied solo for a time. Veronika was a bit too young for this particular box to be a true busy box, but we did have fun with it together! The bird theme felt just right for springtime.

As prep, I glued wiggle eyes to several small Styrofoam balls, then placed them in a bin along with the following: little pieces of pipe cleaner and feathers.

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I showed Veronika how to poke a piece of pipe cleaner into each face as a beak.

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Then the feathers can be inserted any which way to complete your birds! Older toddlers could take it from here as a busy box, but Veronika needed help with the mechanics of poking in the sharp point of the feather. “Yellow bird!” she said with delight to one that featured predominantly yellow feathers.

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We mixed and matched colors, and then started experimenting with the placement of the feathers. If they stuck upright, the birds looked like turkeys. (In fact, you could consider this as a busy box around Thanksgiving and design all the birds with upright feathers!).

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If the feathers trailed towards the back, the birds looked like peacocks.

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Out to the side and they looked like little song birds or eagles.

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Big brother Travis was the one who came up with the idea of adding additional pipe cleaner pieces to be feet.

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Soon we were fluttering and tweeting our birds through the air.

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These brought such a big smile to her face!

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So a fantastic craft, whether as a true busy box to entertain your toddler solo or to engage in together.

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Easy Bird Feeders

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Here are a few easy ways that even a toddler can help make bird feeders! It’s never too early to teach compassion for feathered friends.

I set out a tray with all of our materials: o cereal, sunflower seeds (make sure to buy them unroasted and unsalted), pine cones, a toilet paper tube, pipe cleaners, and yarn.

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For the first version, show your toddler how to thread the o cereal onto either yarn or a pipe cleaner. The pipe cleaner turned out to be much sturdier for Veronika’s little fingers.

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Not to mention the o cereal turned out to be more fun as a snack than for threading, which was just fine!

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To complete this bird feeder, simply loop the pipe cleaner or yarn at the ends, and it’s ready to hang.

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For the next version, I gave Veronika a plastic spoon to spread peanut butter over the toilet paper tube. Punch two holes near the top to thread a pipe cleaner handle, then roll in the sunflower seeds. (Note: You can also use commercial bird seed, but I liked that sunflower seeds kept the project completely edible for Veronika… just in case!).

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We used a similar method for the third version, except using pine cones. Smear with peanut butter, and then roll in sunflower seeds.

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Make sure to use a pine cone with a stem long enough to knot a length of yarn on. Knot the other end of the yarn to a tree branch.

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We had so much fun popping outside to hang these in the branches, in early morning sunshine!

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Sure enough, we had visitors very soon, although one of the pine cones was soon stolen by an adorable and hungry brown squirrel!

Kindergarten Home School Week 4: Wednesday

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Hurrah for a successful day. Between innovative assignments and an interest in the topics, Travis did great today. There was also ample room for toddler activities, whether getting little sister busy with socks or pausing for a toddler gym video class.

9-9.30: ELA. Today Travis made words with his feet! Write out a few words (consonant-vowel-consonant) with a separate letter per sheet of paper, and arrange them on the floor. I wrote out: pig, wig, cat, mat, hat, van, and can. Now Travis had to spell the words by stomping on them! This was very silly of course, and the kids both loved crumpling up the paper when we were done.

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9.30-10: Math. Today was about estimating and counting to 100. First Travis pulled a handful from a pile of pennies. I asked Travis to estimate how many he had, which he struggled with for a moment before coming up with 10. It was really 11! He pulled a second handful and I asked if it felt like more or less. He said less and estimated 5, for a correct answer of 8.

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We then grouped the pennies into 10s, which let us skip count to 100. For a little exercise, we counted by 1s to 100, alongside a movement video.

10-10.30: Travis did Lexia for 20 minutes while baby sister had a “gym” class.

10.30-11: Free play/snack. Too rainy for outdoor recess!

11-12: Science. We watched a video of a sunflower book, after which he cut out the steps in the life cycle of a a sunflower. First he ordered them, then glued them down in a booklet and colored them in, thinking about the realistic colors of dirt, sky, flower petals etc. We even sent a video of it to his teacher!

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Travis also colored in our state bird (the chickadee) for Draw a Bird Day – yes that’s a thing!

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12-1: Lunch/free play.

1-1.30: Library. There was a rhyming activity online for what would have been his special today, and we watched our town librarian read a story video. Travis rounded out the half hour with a few games from PBS Kids online.

2-3: We tacked on our own extra-curricular: cooking! This counted as music, too, since we didn’t just make blueberry bars, we made blues-berry bars.

It was too rainy to get outside, so we got out our wiggles with a Go Noodle dance. We capped off the day with puzzles (48 pieces, a first for Travis!).

Bugs vs. Birds

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To slip some subtle math and science into your child’s next summer nature walk, turn it into a tally hunt for bugs and birds. I told Travis we’d be counting both, and asked him whether he thought he would find more birds or bugs. He quickly replied birds, but then thought about it for a moment; we passed a bunch of flowers, already teeming with five bees. “Bugs!” he guessed.

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To prepare a little scientific notebook, print out a picture of a bug and a bird, and tape or glue down to notebook paper. Now you can tally as you walk.

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This will also be a great lesson on tallying and making marks in groupings of 5 (good for skip-counting!).

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As we walked, Travis sometimes forgot to count, since there was so much else to see. Eventually we decided he would look out for bugs, and I was in charge of birds.

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It quickly became apparent that bugs were far more abundant…so much so we eventually stopped our tally at around 35. Although hard to see, the picture above shows two beautiful dragonflies perched on a limb.

In short, this game is a great way to get your little one noticing nature on a closer scale, as well as to think about the differing populations of species within an area.

Hummingbird Puppets

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We’re welcoming the birds of spring with this little finger puppet craft from Travis’s Ranger Rick Jr.! The pom pom puppets probably come out close to a hummingbird’s true size, which is neat to think about.

First, Travis selected which color pom poms we should use for the bodies. His was dark blue and light blue, and mine was yellow and pink. Glue the two pom poms together.

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Next we snapped toothpicks in half for the long pointy beaks. Glue a half onto whichever pom pom will be the head. Cut triangles from foil cupcake liners, and use two for the wings and one for a tail.

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Googly eyes complete the little birds.

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To make them into puppets, cut a strip of felt and glue into a circle that will fit your child’s finger. Glue onto the bottom of the pom poms and let dry.

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Now flutter your hummingbirds! Ranger Rick even included a sweet little poem to recite as you fly them around.

Look in your garden

And you just might spy

A hummingbird flash

As it quickly flies by.

 

Watch the small bird

Putting on a great show – 

Moving this way and that,

Always on the go.

 

When it finds flowers

So bright and so fair, 

It sips sweet nectar

While still in the air.

Travis even had the birds drinking “nectar” from some other toys!

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Early Explorers Animals

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When I saw that Travis’s newest package from Early Explorers was all about animals, I worried it would overlap with the unit on habitats. But of course the Little Passports company ensured there was plenty of new info and exciting ideas for us to explore, and I needn’t have worried one bit!

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My seasoned explorer jumped right in, telling me he was off to put the animal stickers on his map solo (“Don’t come, Mom, I can do it myself!”) though he did later have me verify that each was on the right continent.

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With that we were off and running, checking out the flashcards, flashlight game, and booklet, with fun activities like tracing and mazes.

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Animals Craft:

Travis’s booklet suggested drawing your favorite animals. Travis preferred to color in animals someone else had outlined, and luckily the website featured a bonus template of just such a thing.

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He liked making up silly colors for his animals!

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Animals Science:

The “science” project we undertook was to visit a nearby National Park and chat with a ranger about what wildlife we might encounter. As luck would have it, the unit overlapped with the Great Backyard Bird Count, so we headed off on a brisk winter’s day!

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Travis loved the little presentation on birds before the walk, full of questions.

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We headed out with binoculars, and paused every time we heard a bird call. Although we heard a few different species, we unfortunately didn’t see them.

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But we searched for signs of other animals, too, such as paw prints (Travis was sure this was a fox, not a dog out for a walk)…

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…and squirrel burrows.

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Definitely do head to your nearest National Park, whether as tame as ours, or as wild as Yellowstone, and see what your ranger can tell you!

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Animals Keepsake:

The animal puppets to put together were by far his favorite keepsake we’ve received from this subscription to date! These foam puppets had a crafty component, since some were stickers that needed to be added on to the bodies.

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There was a nice representational sample, everything from exotic lions to cute pandas to cows like those we can see here at home.

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Not only was he wild about putting them together, following the easy step-by-step instructions solo, but when we had finished, he asked if he could put them together again (unfortunately, not really!). From here on out, they’re great for puppet shows.

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Animals Field Trip:

Our booklet suggested a trip to a local zoo or aquarium; please note that I never take Travis to zoos, as life in a cage is a sad one for animals. That said, we will visit an aquarium as long as the fish are well-cared for and there are no captive cetaceans.

And what a day at the aquarium we had! Travis was fully tuned in to the animals today, on a hunt for species we’d read about in our booklet, and marveling at them. Have you ever watched seahorses swim, for example? They truly dance.

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He was in love with the motions of this spider crab.

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And fascinated to learn about piranhas.

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And whoa – sharks are always a thrill.

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As a bonus, this was a great activity for his little sister!

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We sat down over a snack to check off all the animals we’d seen that were featured in his booklet.

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Animals Further Activities:

We weren’t done yet! The booklet was rife with further suggestions. We headed to our local park on a warm day to see how many different types of animals we could spot. Here in the winter, it was mainly bird species, but we counted 4: ducks, swans, geese, and seagulls.

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Next up was a visit to a local animal shelter, a great way to show your child how other people help animals. I encouraged Travis to ask the volunteers anything he wanted about where they got the cats from, and how they found them good homes.

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And of course there was lots of time to pet and play!

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I had also purchased the animal band magnetic set from Little Passport’s shop. Okay, maybe this didn’t teach us anything about animals, but it sure was cute!

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The magnetic case includes heads, bodies, and legs to mix and match, of adorable animals playing instruments. Incidentally, this game is great for on-the-go, since the magnetic pieces ensure you won’t lose them.

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You can keep the learning going with websites and books, from here. Travis fell in love with crabs at the aquarium, so we did further research online with YouTube crab videos. Lizards were another fast favorite, and we learned more about them.

And of course your local library will have in-depth books about many species. So find out your child’s favorite, and get reading!

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Milk Jug Bird Feeder

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It’s that time of year when we start thinking about our feathered friends, providing them with seeds for the colder weather ahead (even though it’s been unseasonably warm!). In the past we’ve made everything from pinecone feeders to a little cafe. I wanted to try this version because it looked nice and roomy for the birds, but it posed a bit of a vegan challenge: the base of the feeder calls for a gallon milk jug. I briefly considered reusing a relative’s milk gallon, but had a hunch the non-dairy milk bottle from Califia Farms would work. It does, but grown-ups, do take care in the step below that calls for an Xacto knife and scissors!

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First, cut a window in the front of the jug for birds to fly into. I started this with a knife, and finished the cut-out with scissors.

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You’ll also need to make a hole near the top of the bottle to thread through yarn.

Travis took great pride in painting this project, everything from selecting the color blue…

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…to mixing shades of blue…

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…to making sure every last bit was covered.

Once the paint had dried, I tied yarn through the hole in the top and we headed outside.

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Travis loved scooping in the bird seed.

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Find the perfect spot to hang your feeder, then wait for your feathered friends to arrive!

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Bird Cafe

 

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Our latest project (from High Five magazine) wasn’t as big a hit as past crafts, perhaps because Travis and I have made bird feeders before and it felt a bit ho-hum to him. But there’s never anything wrong with learning a new way to feed our feathered friends, and this one is easy to put together!

Save any clear plastic food container; shallow is better, like the kind used for nuts or dried fruit. Rinse and dry.

Cut a rectangle from the center of an 8×5-inch piece of craft foam. This step was a bit tricky for Travis, but he loved cutting separate pieces of craft foam into free-form shapes while I worked.

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Tape the foam around your container, then wrap the top of the craft foam around the lid and tape in place. The craft foam now acts as the “wall” connecting the bottom and the lid roof.

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Hole punch the foam near the lid on each side, and thread through yarn or string to hang your feeder.

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As the final touch, tape on a second sheet of craft foam bent into a “roof”.

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We’re hoping to get many a summer visitor!

 

Bird Puppets for Racing

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Here’s a silly game to play in the backyard, using just a few craft supplies from home!

First, we painted the inside of plastic cups… this was novel for Travis to paint the inside of something, and he took great care adding layers of blue, red, and purple paint.

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Once the paint dried, we glued a few feathers inside each cup as tail feathers.

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Two more feathers went on the outside of each cup as the wings, along with a construction paper triangle for a beak and two eyes.

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In the morning, we set up the race! Cut plastic straws to about the size of your cups, and tape on.

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Thread long strings anywhere outside like a tree branch, fence, or gate. Slip the other end of each string into the straw of a bird. Now bounce and jiggle your birdies down their strings all the way to the end. Which bird will win?

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