In this era of electronics, connecting with nature no longer comes naturally to children. But you can help your child associate with nature through birdwatching, which has many benefits.
By Anitha Bennett
Nature enriches life with so many colours, sights and sounds. While you can easily pick up myriad simple hobbies to help your child connect with nature, birdwatching is one that is extremely interesting and engaging. It is also a hobby that can turn into a lifelong passion for your child.
Birdwatching doesn’t require any complicated kit. All it needs is a keen eye and a good ear for starters. Look up online along with your child the names of the common birds that you find in your area. You can also download apps on your mobile phone that can help you with such a list. This will also be a very handy reference when you start off with your hobby.
Here’s how to go birdwatching with your child.
Take a fun backpack – one for you and one for your child. Inside the backpack, tuck in a notebook, pen, some markers and crayons. Also, pack a pair of binoculars if you have one. They come in very handy to spot the elusive birds that are sitting afar. Take your cell phone along with you but don’t forget to keep it in the silent mode. A cell phone can be put to various uses like photographing the birds, video recording their activities or recording their sounds.
While you may find birds everywhere, they are easiest to spot in a place where there is a lot of greenery. A local park or a neighbourhood with a lot of trees is an ideal place to start with. If you do not want to venture too far, you can get the birds to come to you! Place a bird bath and some grain in your balcony, terrace or backyard and pull up chairs for yourself and your child to wait patiently for your feathery friends.
Choose a day when the weather isn’t too hot or it isn’t raining. Outfit yourself and your little one with a sturdy pair of running shoes. Put on a hat or a cap. Along with your backpack, don’t forget to carry water and some picnic treats! You can allocate one day of the week for birdwatching. An early morning session during the weekend is ideal and your child will eagerly look forward to it with you!
While birdwatching makes for an interesting and simple hobby, there are certain precautions that you need to take when you venture into an unknown area. Make sure you and your child keep your belongings safe. Be on the look-out for animals, reptiles like snakes, and insects in heavily-wooded areas. Also, watch out for plants that your child may be allergic to. Most importantly, do not get lost following the birds.
When you and your little one spot a bird, make sure to remain as quiet as possible. Observe the bird. Ask your child questions about what he is watching; for example, name the colours on the bird or what the bird is doing. See if you can identify the bird together. Help your child view the bird through a pair of binoculars. Ask him to make a rough sketch of the bird in his observation book; you can also draw the same in yours. Photograph or record the bird activity with your cell phone. Once you come back home, you can play and watch it together. Try and mimic the birdsong. Colour the bird drawings along with your child. Label and write the date.
Don’t forget to add a photograph of the two of you every time you go birdwatching! Make a scrapbook of all your findings along with some feathers and facts about birds. It will be a keepsake for your child for a lifetime.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.
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