Birds are my favorite thing to learn more about with my children. This wasn’t an interest I had as a child, or even an adult, until I learned about Charlotte Mason (you can read how My Little Robins got its name here.) But I want my children to grow up in an atmosphere filled with appreciation for the natural beauty around them. I love the happy, shrieking sounds of my little ones when they see a bird. Miss H (5) identifies them (correctly some of the time) and E (2) tries to imitate their sounds. Charlotte Mason bird study in the early years doesn’t includes formal lessons. So, sharing these beauties with our little ones relies very much on our own knowledge.
If you are like me and bring no prior knowledge to the table, this doesn’t mean that your child will just have to wait to learn about birds until either a) someone else teaches them or b) they read a really good book about birds. You, Mom, CAN learn about birds so that it fills the learning atmosphere of your home and out-of-doors life.
In Charlotte Mason’s Formidable List of Attainments, she recommended that a child of six should be able to recognize six birds by song, color, and shape. I believe Charlotte Mason meant for this milestone to be reached while the child is six, and not by the time a child reaches the age of six, so this modest figure means that you only have to really get to know six birds in your child’s first seven years. That’s less than a bird a year. While you’re spending those glorious hours outside with your children, you can share with them the beautiful things you’re learning about birds.
Related: The Indoorsy Mom’s Guide to Getting Outside
Charlotte Mason Bird Study Resources for Moms
Get to Know Your Local Audubon Society
If you have an Audubon Society near you, consider yourself blessed! The Audubon Society is dedicated to preserving bird habitats and species, and educating people about birds. Our local Audubon Society offers free and paid events, the ability to hike around the grounds, and educational camps and programs for kids. If you are just getting started with birding, this is a great place to go!
Use Bird Guides
Since you’ll want to learn more about the birds in your area, pick up some bird guide books that are specific to you region. You might be able to find some regional pamphlets or guides from the Audubon Society. I absolutely love bird song guides. These allow me to identify birds by their sound instead of their feathers. To be honest, this is my favorite skill! I love the satisfaction of identifying a bird by its call, and then, a few moments later, watching it soar above my head. Double confirmation!
I’ve used affiliate links to share some of my favorite birding resources with you.
- The Backyard Birdsong Guide Eastern and Central North America: A Guide to Listening
- The Backyard Birdsong Guide Western North America: A Guide to Listening
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, Revised Edition
- Birds: A Fully Illustrated, Authoritative and Easy-to-Use Guide
Pay Attention to Familiar Birds in Familiar Places
There’s a good chance you have six different types of birds that visit your backyard or local green space. Those are the birds you should focus on! Because we get into set habits, you might be in the habit of ignoring the birds that live around you. Start paying close attention to your bird neighbors.
If you do have a backyard, hang up birds feeders and make a bird habitat by getting a bird bath, and filling your space with trees and shrubs to make the little visitors feel welcome. Every time a bird comes to your backyard oasis for a break, observe them closely, snap a picture, and go look them up online or in your bird books. The chances are good that this bird will be back to visit again, so you can share what you know with your children the next time you see it.
Get some good binoculars, so that you can really see those beauties. Mine are from Nikon- middle of the road, and perfect for a beginner. Check out this list of best high powered binoculars if you’re struggling to find the perfect pair of binoculars.
Listen to Birding Podcasts
While you’re cooking dinner or exercising, listen to bird podcasts. You can find some well-loved birding podcasts here.
Bird Study Ideas for the Early Years
Make Bird Feeders
This is so fun for little ones to help with. Help them make pine cone or Cheerio bird feeders. These are fun crafts, but little ones also especially love it when a bird comes to visit their creation.
Bird Nesting Box
A bird nesting box is filled with materials that a bird might want to make a nest out of. Add straw, twigs, scraps of newspaper, etc. You also might want to add some bird seed to attract these friends in the first place. Put all of this in a cardboard box, or purchase a bird nesting box. Encourage your children to check on the box daily.
Have Field Guides Available
Of course, a non-reader might not pick up a bird guide to learn all about a specific bird, but being able to look at pictures and recognize a few familiar faces will encourage them to keep learning. We love the Take Along guides.
While binoculars might be good for older children and adults, young children sometimes have trouble getting them to focus. A monocular, like this one, is a good alternative.
Literary books make a beautiful addition to the early years. Here are some good, inspiring options for the early years.
- The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies
- Birds That Every Child Should Know (you can find a free, online version here)
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
- Just Ducks! by Nicola Davies
- Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
- The Story about Ping
- Feathers: Not Just for Flying
- A Nest Is Noisy
- An Egg Is Quiet
Bird Coloring Pages
If your child enjoys coloring, why not encourage him or her to color something truly worthwhile? You can find free coloring pages, based off of the Burgess Bird Book, here. I think I’m going to purchase this Audubon coloring book for H.
In Home Education, Charlotte Mason described “Bird Stalking.” the act of quietly seeking out and observing birds in their natural habitat.
But bird ‘stalking,’ to adapt a name, is a great deal more exciting and delightful than bird’s nesting, and we get our joy at no cost of pain to other living things. All the skill of a good scout comes into play. Think, how exciting to creep noiselessly as shadows behind river-side bushes on hands and knees without disturbing a twig or pebble till you get within a yard of a pair of sandpipers, and then, lying low, to watch their dainty little runs, pretty tricks of head and tail, and to hear the music of their call. And here comes the real joy of bird-stalking.” Home Education, page 89
Putting It All Together
Since Charlotte Mason bird study is not meant to be a quick dabble in birds, but a long, enjoyable observation of our feathered friends, all of these ideas and resources can come together slowly. There’s no need to cram all of this into a couple week’s worth of lessons! After you feel comfortable identifying a few of the birds in your surroundings, point them out to your children. Encourage your child to look at their coloring and body shape, and to listen to the sounds they make. You might want to encourage your child to look it up in a bird book, but the chances are that you will see this bird a dozen more times this month, since you’re, you know, paying attention now.
Allow your child to use his or her monocular whenever they want and to dig into those wonderful books and bird guides whenever they’d like. Grab your binoculars when you see something that interests you, and plan some field trips to see some interesting birds in your area. The chances are good that when your child sees your new-found interest in birds, their curiosities will soon follow.
Jen @ Bookish Family says
Great advice! Also, Cornell has a great (and free) bird coloring book we’ve used here:http://www.birds.cornell.edu/NetCommunity/bbimages/PDFs/ColoringBook.pdf
That looks wonderful, thank you for sharing that, Jen!