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Backyards really come alive in the summer, with birds and other wildlife. Birdfeeders are a way to attract winged friends and teach kids about nature at the same time. They are also functional and encourage a mentality of conservation. A birdfeeder provides a venue for them to feast on the insects, worms, snails and spiders in your area. This means you can rely less on toxic insecticides or other harmful chemicals. Birds also are a boon to flower pollination, so adding a backyard bird feeder can result in a more robust flowerbed.
Beyond the practicality, making a birdfeeder is fun and can be an age-appropriate activity that encourages the development of fine motor skills. There are plenty of simple designs that are easy for kids to make with little mess, from a pine cone bird feeder to a toilet paper roll bird feeder. And the best part? Most of these feeders use materials found in your home or after a quick trip to the grocery store.
We’ve broken it down for you, into easy steps. First, read through the directions with your child to encourage reading and comprehension skills. Then lay out newspaper to protect your table and place the supplies on top. (Or take the craft outside and you won’t have to worry about a mess.)
Following are a few easy recipes inspired by a few kid-friendly websites:
One of the most common bird feeders for kids to make, the pine cone bird feeder is also one of the easiest.
- Pine cone(s)
- Peanut butter or lard
- Gather up a few pine cones from your yard and tie strings to the top of them. Tip: Do this step first, as the pine cones can get sticky and messy!
- Using a butter knife, have your preschooler spread peanut butter or cooking lard all over the surface of the pine cone.
- Roll the pine cone through a bowl of bird seed.
- Hang the pine cone from a high surface, such as a tree or a porch.
- Clean, opened tin cans with labels removed
- Spray paint in choice of colors
- Pre-cut 6-in. wide foam flowers (available at most craft stores)
- Large wooden or plastic beads
- Thick twine
- Drill with drill bits or metal punch
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- On the side of each tin can, use a ruler to measure about a 1/4-in. from each end in a straight line. Then mark a dot at each of these points with a permanent marker. Use a drill or metal punch to make holes about 1/4-in. wide where the marked dots are. These two holes are where you will insert the twine for making a hanger later on.
- In a well-ventilated area, spray paint the outside of your tin cans in various colors. Apply as many coats as needed for full coverage and let dry 24-48 hours.
- Lay the open end of each can centered on a foam flower. Trace around the circle opening with a pencil. Centered inside the circle either freehand or use a compass to draw another circle about a 1/2 inch smaller all around. Then use a ruler to draw several crisscrossing straight lines inside the original traced circle (like the way a pizza is cut). First cut out the small inner circle. Then cut along each crisscrossing line, stopping at the traced outline of the original circle. This will make several tabs around the inner perimeter.
- Lay the foam flower face down on a flat surface. Apply a ring of hot glue around the perimeter of the traced circle. Then place the open end of the can aligned on top of the hot glue ring. Hold the can firmly in place until the glue dries. Hot glue each of the cut tabs down on the interior of the can rim to further secure the foam flower in place.
- For the hangers, first cut a 12-18 in. piece of twine for each of your cans. Thread one end through the back hole, inside of the can and back up through the front hole. With even lengths of twine, place several large beads on each loose end. Knot the top of the twine to secure the hanger with beads in place. Repeat for each tin can feeder.
- Clean tin can
- Paint, if desired
- Peanut butter
- To make, you can begin by painting your tin can, if desired. This is a great way to customize your feeder to add some decor to your yard.
- Then you wrap a strip of fabric around the can, which not only adds to the design, but gives the birds a place to land. Tie some twine around the middle, and glue for extra security.
- Next you’ll want to make the food. Dip a pinecone in some melted peanut butter, and roll it in birdseed.
- Let it dry slightly. Use a little bit of glue to fix the pinecone inside the can, and then hang for all the birds to see!
Don’t forget to take photos of your creations to preserve the memories for years to come. And if you’re looking for a more hands-on activity, try growing your own food! You may discover you have a budding green thumb in your house.