You can watch and wonder about birds whether you’re age two or ninety-two. Birding is a fantastic hobby for all ages, and relates to science, literacy, and math. It’s flexible to many different settings—even a window will do—but encourages a connection to nature, regardless. It also encourages slowing down to look and listen carefully—good for all of us to practice!
Best of all, it’s easy to get into birding. Here are plenty of simple entry points to get kids interested in birds at school or home, along with our favorite bird books and educational materials.
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1. Pique interest with a great book.
The best nature books both answer kids’ questions and get them asking new ones. We love Curious About Birds by Cathryn Sill to introduce bird behaviors and types to younger kiddos, or Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart for getting older kids to think about what makes birds unique.
2. Learn about common birds.
Birding becomes more intriguing and satisfying when you know what you’re looking at. We love to share Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater to help kids get to know some of the most frequent fliers. Older kids can peruse the post Get to Know These 15 Common Birds from Audubon, too.
3. Go on a bird walk.
Birding is a great excuse to get out for a stroll. Even if kids are reluctant walkers, many are more eager to head out to meet a birding challenge. Introduce the idea of walking with a bird-related purpose with Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson, a story about a girl who learns about birding on a walk through Central Park.
4. Count birds.
Focusing on a bird’s location can be simpler than looking for specific types of birds. This free printable invites kids to tally birds they see on the ground, in the air, and on trees.
5. Try “bird listening.”
It can often be easier to hear birds than see them, and even very young kids can learn to listen for and identify bird songs. Noisy Bird Sing-Along by John Himmelman gives kids a simple introduction to bird calls. Or, browse Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds website to play samples of calls of birds found in your area.
6. Practice using binoculars.
While using binoculars can be challenging for kids, having tools of the trade can go a long way to making a birding experience feel legit. A reliable set made for kids is a good place to start. We love Playco Binoculars for Kids. This tip from Audubon’s “The Birdist” is also helpful to share with kids: “Lock onto the bird with your bare eyes, slowly raise the binoculars up without moving, and you will be looking in the right place.”
7. Or make your own pair!
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The children have paid more attention to birds when we played outside. I set up an invitation to make their own binoculars yesterday. Today, we went biking and birding in the nearby pond and used our binoculars. Not only we spot many birds, we also saw butterflies and dragonflies. The children also noticed the different sounds that the birds made. We also heard the frogs. #learningthroughnature #kidsbirding #diybinoculars #earlychildhoodeducation #earlyyearslearning #yegdayhome
DIY “binoculars” are perfect for getting kids into the birding spirit. Provide simple materials and see how they tackle the task or give them specific directions to follow.
8. Set up a birding spot.
All you really need is a window or a quiet corner outdoors. (You could add binoculars and an observation journal or checklist to make it feel more official, of course.) Challenge kids to patiently wait, watch, and share their findings.
9. Draw birds you see.
Birding connects so naturally to scientific drawing. Start with a basic lesson on how to draw a bird, such as this one from SuperSimpleDraw. Then ask kids to choose a bird they saw and draw it. Add labels or descriptive sentences for a literacy connection!
10. Study birds’ nests.
If you’re lucky enough to find an accessible bird’s nest to observe over time, of course, do it. Otherwise, there are plenty of nest-related books like Robbins!: How They Grow Up by Eileen Christelow or The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine. We love a simple invitation for kids to try making their own nests , too.
11. Put up a feeder.
Feeders are a great way to attract birds for convenient viewing. You can even attach one like this to your window! Project FeederWatch at The Cornell Lab of Orinthology has a great interactive list of common feeder birds to help kids learn who’s visiting their feeders.
12. Or make a feeder!
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Happy first day of April! 🌷🐥 Our activity table is getting a LOT of use during this quarantine – but remember, you don't need this table to do activities – a simple bin/sink/tray works wonders! Today's activity was making bird feeders! We had a lot of fun creating these together, and then running out to our backyard to hang them up on some branches. Super easy but very fun – toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, birdseed and string. We also had some pinecones we are collecting and used some of those as well. Swipe to see our fun – and don't be fooled, my 2yo's contribution was eating all of our peanut butter! • • #ottawa #ottawamom #playroominspiration #playroomdecor #playroom #playroomlove #diy #diyplay #playroomorganization #toyrotation #toddler #toddleractivities #toddleractivitiesathome #613 #diyfun #diyplayideas #handmadelove #diybirdfeeder #diytoddler #activitytray #whatsinyourflisat #flisattable #invitationtoplay #invitetoplay #sensoryplay #naturalplay #creativemothehood #ottawamama
There are endless ways to make DIY bird feeders; you can keep it super-simple with a toilet paper tube spread with peanut butter and dipped in birdseed, or check out 32 homemade birdfeeder ideas from Happy Hooligans.
13. Look for what birds left behind.
Kids love to be bird detectives. Even if you can’t find birds, kids can hunt for signs birds have been somewhere, like feathers, cracked seeds, nests … and yes, even poop.
14. Play bird bingo.
We love a good bingo game to build background knowledge and interest. This one from Laurence King publishing is a fave. After playing, try to spot some of the birds in real life!
15. Go “birding” inside.
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Simple birding game for indoors. The Sibley Backyard Birding Postcard set on the left is *well-loved* by my kiddos. This morning I took out maybe 15-20 bird cards and placed them around the living room while we pretended to bird for them. I'd say the name of the bird and ask them to find it. If we knew the bird sounds we'd make those too. . We actually have two Sibley Backyard Birding sets of "flashcards" that I think can be useful for bird I.D. with kids: (1) postcards [left], and (2) flashcards [right]. I let my kids have access to the postcards & they are pretty beaten up but well loved & I think it's worth it. Since we live in Indiana, we removed all of the Western birds from the stack. They don't need to see those. This past winter, we pulled out maybe 10-15 postcards of birds that we'd likely be seeing at our feeder. When we identified a new bird at the feeder, I'd put the postcard up on the wall. . . I think the postcard set is great for littles because it's just the picture of the bird (male & female) and name. Nothing else. The true Sibley flashcards have a lot more detail that I feel is extraneous at age 3. . Also: please note that *I* am just okay at birding: often we see birds that I don't know and I say that to my kids: I'm not sure the name of that, but let's try to find out! And we maybe ask dad or try to find it in our postcard set later. I think it's good for my kids to hear that I don't know but that I'm *interested* in learning. . . . #thepeacefulpreschool #letterbunit #letterb #bisforbird #montessori #preschool #prek #totschool #homeschoolpreschool #preschoolathome #montessoriathome #simplycharlottemason #charlottemasonliving #wildandfreechildren #childrenunplugged #waldorf #waldorfathome #playfulparenting #learningthroughplay #simplicityparenting #birding #birdingwithkids #sibley #thesilvanreverie
Is your weather or location not conducive to actual birding? Make it an indoor game instead. Grab a set of bird flashcards and hang some up around the room. Give kids clues or a scavenger hunt list and ask them to find specific birds. We love Backyard Birds Flashcards from the Cornell Lab of Orinthology or David Allen Sibley’s Backyard Birding Flashcards. For more indoor birdwatching-related activities, Birding Adventures for Kids: Activities and Ideas for Watching, Feeding, and Housing our Feathered Friends by Elissa Wolfson has a whole chapter on the topic!
16. Use a field guide.
There are tons of great bird field guides for kids. For carrying with us while birding, we love Stan Tekiela’s Quick Adventure Guides, which are organized by bird color for ease of use. For more information, we like Peterson Field Guides’ The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America by Bill Thompson III.
17. Use a birding app.
Source: Audubon Birds of North America
18. Join a citizen science project.
There are citizen science efforts of all shapes and sizes related to counting and protecting birds. This list for educators from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology shares several notable ones.
To introduce bird-related citizen science, we love to read aloud Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond. This personal narrative is based on the author’s experience participating in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count throughout her childhood. The enthusiasm it conveys for participating in a bird count is definitely contagious!
19. Contribute to a conservation effort.
Kids have a natural instinct to want to protect their feathered friends. Have them research bird conservation tips relevant to your area, such as these for How to Become a Bird-Friendly Beach Goer . Involve them to make signage to teach others, or adapt their own behavior to help keep birds safe. One of our favorite bird books, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf by kid-author and illustrator Olivia Bouler, shows kids how even young people can have a big impact.
Are you a long time or new birding enthusiast? What’s your favorite way to encourage birding for kids? Post your tips in the comments!