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Kids and Bird Watching

Life Without Walls
For most people, the pattern of their life is directly related to the influence of their parents. Recently, I have been reflecting on the tremendous influence my parents have had on my life. As a naturalist in the largest park in the city of Seattle who spends her days off enjoying nature, it is pretty obvious that my parents must have been positive role models when it came to the enjoying the out-of-doors.

Nikon 9x25 Travelite V Binoculars

Pets Less Ordinary
As I grew up, family vacations were spent camping and hiking through a variety of wilderness areas. Our homes always had a bird feeder or bird bath to attract feathered friends, and it was always perched low enough for young eyes to see and appreciate their winged beauty. My mother never discouraged any of the wildlife that found its way into our childhood homes- snakes, mice, frogs, and salamanders to name a few.


For the Birds... and the Kids
It's never too early to instill this love of nature and the outdoors in children. Recently I was leading a bird walk for 4-year-olds- yes, I typed that correctly: 4 year olds. I was surprised, too, but it all worked out:


Pets Less Ordinary
As I grew up, family vacations were spent camping and hiking through a variety of wilderness areas. Our homes always had a bird feeder or bird bath to attract feathered friends, and it was always perched low enough for young eyes to see and appreciate their winged beauty. My mother never discouraged any of the wildlife that found its way into our childhood homes- snakes, mice, frogs, and salamanders to name a few.


For the Birds... and the Kids
It's never too early to instill this love of nature and the outdoors in children. Recently I was leading a bird walk for 4-year-olds- yes, I typed that correctly: 4 year olds. I was surprised, too, but it all worked out:

  • Together we learned to use binoculars. This gave the kids something new to touch and explore.
  • We listened for different bird songs. Giving even young children such a task kept them curious and engaged.
  • We learned how to stand quietly while birds fed nearby. This was the key. The children learned that bird watching is about staying still and quiet.

An hour later we had seen a total of 28 species, which is a remarkable achievement for ones so young. It was obvious from the short amount of time we were together that the parents and adults in the lives of these children had been sharing their love of nature. The children were quickly learning a respect for living creatures and, in turn, each other.


Let Them Explore
During the kids birding tour, one child gently picked up caterpillars, letting them crawl from hand to hand. Her touch was soft, and the caterpillars were no worse for wear when she tucked them back into a bush. Another small child was delighted to share her new found knowledge that boy hummingbirds were the bright ones. And she easily explained how to spot the difference between male and female robins; a feat many adults would be hard pressed to duplicate.


Time Well Spent
What an incredibly valuable gift to give to the next generation- just by spending time outside with your children, nieces, nephews, or young friends. In years to come, this time spent bird watching with children or any other nature activity with kids will be healthily reflected when they make decisions about how they live their lives.

Rachel Carson understood this concept when she wrote, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." So consider taking a child for a birding walk in your local park this spring. Share a moment listening to the warble of a migrant, watch a robin (boy or girl?) pull a worm from the ground, and thrill to the flight of swallows overhead. Get outside... take a child birding.


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