Hanging a bird feeder outside a window is something that can help your toddler get a closer view of these amazing animals. This bird feeder is inexpensive since it uses things you probably have on hand (like pine cones and peanut butter) and it's easy on the environment, too, since you won't be using many new materials.
Time Required: varies
- Take your toddler for a walk around your yard or neighborhood and gather pine cones. Talk about how you're going to make a bird feeder and help your toddler choose large pine cones that are open so that peanut butter will stick well in the crevices. While on your gathering excursion, be on the lookout for birds and see if your toddler can hear any nearby.
- Once inside, gather your materials (see list) and place them on a kitchen counter or other flat surface, making sure your toddler has a stable place to sit or stand to participate.
- Tie 2-foot lengths of string around the tops of the pine cones. I like to get this out of the way because it's a mess to try and tie them after they're covered with peanut butter and dripping bird seed.
- Mix the peanut butter and corn meal together in a bowl. You're going to want about 1 cup of peanut butter and 1/3 cup of corn meal for every 2-3 pine cones you're making. This is a great place to get your toddler involved in measuring and stirring.
- Fill another bowl or shallow pan with enough birdseed for rolling and coating the pine cones. Bird seed has a wonderful sound hitting a metal or glass pan and is a fun sensory experience for your toddler. Make sure you give him some time to dig his hands into it and learn what it feels like and how it behaves. Just make sure you offer constant supervision to prevent choking, eating or birdseed flying across the kitchen at high speed.
- Coat the pine cone with the peanut butter mix first. I find that a big spoon is easiest because it hugs the natural contour of the cone and you can hold it while your toddler presses the cone into it or vice versa. Younger toddlers might just prefer to do the whole thing with their hands or by simply rolling and smashing the cone into the entire bowl of peanut butter mix.
- Next, let your toddler roll the coated pine cone in the birdseed, pressing firmly to really embed those seeds.
- Place the finished pine cones on waxed paper until you're ready to hang them.
- The fun part is hanging the bird feeders since you get to go on another walk. Good places to hang the feeders are from limbs near fences or on the part of small limbs closest to the trunk. This way birds who like to perch can settle on the fence and birds who cling (like woodpeckers) can hang on to the trunk. If you can hang them near a window where your toddler normally plays, they'll get a chance to observe the birds more often.
- If your child is allergic to peanut butter, use soy butter or another nut butter that you know he has not reacted to or use sunflower seed butter. Sunflower seeds are not nuts so they have less chance of causing an allergic reaction. You can even make your own sunflower seed butter, which is another fun experience in itself.
- This activity can get messy, so it's all right to do in a high chair. The lip can help keep some of the bird seed from hitting the floor. Another option is to cover the table with newspaper beforehand so that peanut butter and corn meal cleanup is easier. An old shirt, apron or smock would certainly come in handy as well.
- Some pine cones can be a little sharp so you might need to work on gentle handling or choose pine cones with rounded scales.
What You Need
- pine cones that have opened
- peanut butter
- corn meal
- bird seed
- string, ribbon or yarn (about 2 feet per pine cone)
- waxed paper
- spoon, spatula or other utensil for spreading
- bowls or shallow dishes or pans