Tag Archives | bird watching

Boys And Fun Alternatives To Electronics

I have to start this article on a personal note and I don’t very often so please indulge me.  I have two sons and my feelings for them are unique to anything in my life. I honestly believe I could stare at their faces all day.  I could sit in a chair and watch them play for hours and they bring me more joy in life then I ever thought imaginable. I’m sure this is true for most mother/son relationships because as moms we try so hard to understand these little wild things from the moment they enter our life and it’s not always easy and doesn’t come naturally like it does for dads.  We know they are different from us and it’s a beautiful feeling to just accept and embrace those differences.

From the time my boys were young, being active outside, running off massive amounts of energy was my connection and way to engage my guys.  Now, more and more I find them craving anything electronic.  They could bounce from the TV, to computer, to handheld devices all day and go to bed happy. Why the pull to electronics for boys?  Starting at the age of 5 and 6 I’ve really noticed this behaviour and it worries me. I find as a parent I need to stand on my head to entertain them enough to leave these games.  Part of me knows that boys need to be stimulated constantly to stay engaged with activities. What activities are effective with keeping them entertained and away from the screen? Here are a few ideas I can share that effectively keep their brains and hands busy:

Wood-nails-hammer.  It’s really that simple. Put a pile of wood outside, different size nails and a kid friendly hammer and trust them to not break a finger. My 7 year old even made a Halloween decoration out back this year with wood and was so proud of himself. To encourage this healthy activity, Santa will be bringing my boys their very own toolboxes. This gift idea is a great price point and something practical that will get used. A hammer, variety of nails, tape measure, screws, and scrap wood can all go inside.

If your child is pre-school age and too young to handle real nails, my sons’ preschool had an incredible idea that introduced 3 year olds to the idea of hammering.  They collected the packing foam that comes with a new appliance and put out golf tees and little hammers for the kids. The golf tees slide into the packing material like butter and they can’t hurt themselves.  Pretty smart and the kids love it!

Drawing and crafting. Nothing keeps hands busy like paint, glue, and markers. My boys love to draw and craft.  It can sometimes be daunting to come up with great ideas on the spot, so here it’s always nice to receive a great craft kit to bring out when boredom strikes. My little guinea pigs loved building the wooden rocket Green Planet Parties just got in. It includes paint, stickers, glue, 15 wooden parts, and boys had a blast putting it all together!

Playdough – so easy to make at home!  Best ever play dough recipe found here and read the comments at the bottom of the article – there are some great ideas.

Ink pads and stamping. Great for boys that get easily frustrated drawing. I picked up a fantastic knights stencil and stamp set from Dandelion Kids and the brand is called Dejeco. It’s amazing and I can’t wait to try the stamp kit that consists of all robot parts. So you stamp robot parts together to make full robots which all boys love. Aliens, robots, wild animals are great bets that boys will want to draw and a stencil set can really benefit a child just learning how to draw.

Writing and story and illustrating. A great way to help with writing and drawing, my boys love to sit and create little books. When they are young, we write the story for them and they draw pictures. Now that they are older, they get to write and illustrate.  These little books also make a great keepsake!

Dress up. Yes, boys love to dress up and a good cape is a magical gift for any young boy. Pirate gear or masking a caped crusader is wonderful to watch a boy transform. Try to purchase the cape without any shiny decals because it screams PVC.  And if a treasure gold hunt accompanies these costumes, why that’s even better!

Kids and bird watching.  Borrow a pair of grown-up binoculars, purchase a bird book of bird species local to your area, grab a pencil and notepad and you’re ready to bird watch. The small winter birds are out and hungry so it’s easy to put out a bird feeder and watch and record their activity for hours. A fun craft that we did today is making bird feeders out of pinecones, peanut butter, rolled in seeds. For full instructions click here.

Empty box. I hate to say it because you hear it so often, but my boys have the best time with oversize appliance type empty boxes.  Cutting out their own windows, decorating with stickers or words is just the best feeling in the world. My 5 year old made his own Christmas house out of a box last year and I still have it in my garage. He worked so hard on it and it sat in my living room for months before we finally put it away. The best thing is these boxes are free and can be recycled at your curb when the boys are done decorating and playing in it.  Here was the result with led lights and a christmas welcome sign attached by a craft tube that he thought of himself.

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Do you have more ideas for keeping boys (and girls) entertained and unplugged?  Please post a comment and share your ideas.

Related articles:

Eagle Cam Eco-Activity

Join The Great Backyard Bird Count ~ Eco Fun!

Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

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Join The Great Backyard Bird Count ~ Eco Fun!

Teachers, parents, here is an awesome eco-activity that is sweeping through North American over 4 days in February (13th-16th) and its called The Great Backyard Bird Count.  If you haven’t tried bird watching or counting the number of same bird species in one spot, you are missing out.  Kids get so excited with this activity ~ it’s like a rock star enters the backyard when you see a group of birds you can name quickly…kids love it!  Anyone can participate during these 4 days because it’s a fun eco activity that involves bird watching, counting, and entering data online ~ perfect for kids (and adults) of all ages.  Why would you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2009?  It’s fun, free, anyone can participate and it teaches your children to help birds. This event is now an annual event and creates a snapshot of which birds are where, across North America.  This count is important and actually helps scientists learn about bird populations, by knowing where the birds are.  For more reasons this count is important, click here.

How can you participate?

During one, two, three or all four days of this event, plan to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes.  You submit a different checklist (checklist is online) if counting in different areas (backyard, beach, park, etc.) and a different checklist for different days.  You count the greatest number of same species birds that you see together at one time.  Record these numbers on your checklist (helpful to print a hard copy to use before entering the results online), then enter your numbers online via the website, starting on Feb 13th.  It will be active to enter your results until March 1, 2009.

Things you might need?

The best purchase I’ve made lately was visiting my local wildlife bird store and purchasing a book with bird species that populate the area where I live (West Coast).  My kids love looking through it and recording the different species we find then recording their discoveries in a bird journal.  See To Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature for more information.

Other helpful tools located on the Great Backyard Bird Count site are:

Printable Tally Sheet. Input your postal code and the GBBC site will bring up a list of all the species you might encounter during your bird counting. If you click on the name of the bird, you’ll see a picture of the species and tons of information….an awesome tool!

The entry form.  Best to print this off beforehand, then enter the information online later.

Tips for attracting birds ~ from choosing bird food to selecting a bird feeder.

Top 10 Birds from the 2008 Backyard Bird Count

Games for Kids. My 5 year old completed the bald eagle puzzle and loved it!

Stats for those into statistics. Wouldn’t it be cool to see British Columbia make the top 10 for checklists submitted in North America? Let’s go for it!

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Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

After a few days of enjoying bird watching, making home-made bird feeders, forest walks, and basically falling in love with trees and nature again, I want to share a few sites that continue to re-inspire me.  It is so important for children and parents to get outside and enjoy at least an hour of outdoor time each day.  I feel like a new person when I get out and explore tree stumps or explain to my children how wonderful it is to see and touch an enormous tree because it means they’ve been on earth for many years.  The process of getting all my kids dressed for cold weather and listen to the complaining about gloves or boots not fitting properly is almost enough to just abandon the whole idea, but once we are finally outside, the kids have the best time and I feel like a new mother ~ ready to teach, inspire, and I regain lots of patience.  Nature really is magical and has a healing effect on myself and the kids.

Don’t know where to start with encouraging family enjoyment and the outdoors?  Purchase a Nature Bag.  This gift will far out-last its value because the ideas it inspires in a forest, backyard, or adventure walk are precious.  I always try to remember my child won’t tell me how much they appreciated a treasure hunt, eye-spy or scavenger hunt….until they have children of their own and remember it fondly as a grown-up.  Adults always come back to concepts and activities they enjoyed as children once they become a parent, so help create memories that imprint your child’s memory over a life time.  It is parents finding the time, energy and enthusiasm to setup such a special activity.  The two moms that created the Nature Bag make it easy including leaf viewers, a magnifying glass, a blindfold, and their eco-activities included in a booklet that are truly amazing.  Really, re-introduce your child to nature this Valentines Day and enjoy the rewards this gift will bring your entire family. Click here to find locations that sell this product.

I have deep respect for the two website that inspire me constantly with new ideas about how to get my children to enjoy nature and fun activities.  The BEST activity all four of my kids enjoyed this winter season I learned from the mom writing for Nature For Kids.  You really get the sense that she knows what works for children and nature, she reminded me of the craft of making peanut butter bird feeders.  Pine cones you collect, cover with peanut butter, and then roll in birdseed.  Hang up high and away from your house, so only birds are encouraged to feed ~ this had been such a blast for even my two year olds to participate with.  The amount of birds we’ve watched come to our backyard with these feeders is simply amazing!  This leads me onto a connected eco-activity…

Green Hour – I’ve mentioned them before and I’m a huge fan.  This site simply exists to help re-connect your children with nature for one hour each day. The amount of nature-based activities they’ve listed are simply amazing, but their ‘bird journal’ stuck in my brain because this activity combined with the bird feeder, has simply been the best kid’s activity ever in this household. I purchased my boys a bird sight-seeing book, and then gave them a journal and pen.  They write down the page number from the book and species of bird and record a mark for each of these birds that come to investigate the bird feeder.  I had no idea that our backyard was filled with Black Eyed Junco birds….I would have just assumed they were Chickadees.  A great help for kids that can’t read is to print off pictures of the bird species for their journals so it’s easy to cross match with their book!  It’s hilarious and wonderful that my kids act like a rock star entered my backyard when a ‘Winter Wren’ or ‘Bewick’s Wren’ makes an appearance.

Kids are just naturally drawn to nature.  That must be why a tip for colicky babies is to take them for a walk or when children are just miserable, you put them in boots and give them freedom to ‘go nuts’ in a puddle…suddenly, these ailments are gone.  It is parents finding the energy to make the outdoors exciting and fun.  I hope some of the resources I’ve mentioned help your family discover how refreshing and fun nature can be ~ just go outside.

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