Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beginning Bird Books, Activities, and Tools for Kids

A friend asked for recommendations of beginning bird books for her 4-year-old recently, as her daughter has really been interested in what is happening at their bird feeders. Additionally, one of my son's has been recording bird sightings as part of a cub scout requirement. Birding is one way we connect with nature and get outside. These are a few books that I like, plus a few other ideas and options to enhance bird study and nature play:

1. Birds of Indiana --A local naturalist suggested this book. It's great for our local birds. We gave our then 4-year-old one for his birthday. It was perfect for him! He continues to use it, asking about it today so he could peruse birds. Now he is trying to read more words in it and paying attention to the titles and captions. This has more information than the Stoke's Guide. Stan's notes at the bottom of each entry give a nice personal touch to the observations of these birds.

2. Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds --Nice, small size, not too much information, organized by color with tabs on the sides of the page to flip through for the bird.

3. Young Birder's Guide--This is perfect for our older boys (ages 8 and 10) as it has fun facts and amazing information included with the field guide book. It has a slightly edgier feel which appeals to this age range. Nice clear pictures. Organized by type of bird. We won this from the Indiana Young Birder's Club.

4. Fandex Family Field Guides: Birds --I'm not sure what makes it so fun to fan these around and have the shapes of all the birds cut out. I do not leave these out for kids to use all the time, but bring it out from time to time. There are nice colors and shapes, with pertinent information for each bird. This could be a good review.

5. Vulture View --This book is just a picture book about turkey vultures, yet I find it delightful. The simple story really helps students understand the characteristics of turkey vultures. The slight repetition helps in this process. I love that she's a local author as well. Here is my review of the book.

6. Identiflyer --We got one of these for our son a couple of years ago. I use it in programs frequently. There are so many great sounds outside that children get excited when they can recognize the Chick-a-dee-dee-dee in their own yards. There are many apps that also have bird call options; however, I like the Identiflyer for ease of use with younger children.

7. Bird Toys--There are a few bird toys, such as the Audubon Plush Birds and the Backyard Birds TOOB that are neat. If you have other suggestions, please let me know. Always looking for a way for my children to play with nature in a safe way like this. It can be a good way to get to know a bird.

8. Binoculars--They can be toilet paper tube binoculars, yet they help children focus on a smaller part of what they are looking at. Choose durable ones if going for more expensive ones. There are many children's versions available. Check for kids' binoculars here. As a child shows more interest, check with local birders for good recommendations of binoculars.

9. Bird Feeders--Put it out where you can see this out your front window. This is one of the best ways to learn about birds because you get used to seeing them on a regular basis right outside your window. You can get to know their characteristics, knowing the junco always feeds on the ground or that the chickadee is the first to return after all the birds scatter. I put our feeder in front of the house, near the van, and all the kids tools and toys for outside. The boys run through this area like there is no tomorrow. Yet the birds keep coming back and back. Remember, we feed birds to bring them closer to us. They typically can find what they need to eat except in extreme weather situations.

10. Enhance your Yard--Add a bird bath with water (heated in the winter) to really draw in the birds. Birds need clean fresh water all year. You'll love watching their bathing behaviors! Add native plants, shrubs, "plant" a skinny dead tree, etc. to your yard for a needed food source, as cover and perches, and as places to raise young. I found our library and local online sale sites had good options for plant exchanges. Locally, Indiana Native Plants and Wildflower Society is a great place for information.

11.  Nesting Boxes--My son got a cool nesting box that attaches to the window and is clear on the inside as a birthday present. Looking forward to see if birds visit it this spring. Add other nesting boxes around the property to give additional opportunities to rear young. We found a local park that helped us make nesting boxes. It was great!

12. Birding Scavenger Hunts--Going on bird hikes with children may prove to be more difficult as many (okay most at the beginning!) won't know the names of birds and such. Using a scavenger hunt can help you look for bird behaviors, colors, or habitats that help look for birds in a fun way. Here is a fun one! We enjoy finding holes in trees from woodpeckers. Find another option here. You can find an example of Go Explore Nature's birding scavenger hunt here.

13.  Find a birding club. In Indiana, there is a Indiana Young Birders Club. I wish we lived closer for their jaunts, though some are getting closer to home this year. They are amazing kids doing great things in their communities! Finding a class or group may be helpful. Can't find one in your area? Start your own! There is a group of young Amish preteens that I see out with their binoculars every once in a while. They have a mentor and yearly and life lists. They encourage one another and spend time learning about the birds in their area. Additionally, there are many online birding groups, such as  the Birding in Indiana group. I subscribe to several of our surrounding bird groups and often share pictures with my kids and/or stuff we learn.

Other Ideas: 
Make your own bird guide! See our journey here.
Use old Birds & Blooms and other nature magazines to collect bird photos. Laminate and use for all kinds of activities. Additionally, here is a nice printable of 25 common bird cards. We also have these Sibley Bird Cards to help us learn more, too.
Focus on other activities of birds beyond identification. Look for behaviors, such as roosting, preening, drinking, flying, sleeping, etc.
Use study sheets from Handbook of Nature Study. She has great stuff!
These are beautiful little winter bird printables. Would make a lovely mobile!
Here are tips for birding with kids from Cornell.
Visit a bird banding!
Info on wild turkeys in Spring from my blog.
An entry from exploring birds with our nature preschool group.
Check out your local Audubon Society. They offer hikes, educational materials, mentors, and more! Locally we have South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society.

This post may contain affiliate links. Just passing along links to things we have enjoyed! This was shared with Outdoor Play Party .