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    How to Get Kids Interested in Bird Watching

    Authored by Christopher Joe of Connecting with Birds and Nature, LLC.

    As early as I can remember, we watched birds around our yard. From the bright red of the Northern Cardinal to the blue of the Blue Jay, they amazed me. Bird watching with my family was one of those activities we did without even noticing. While reading this, you probably had a flashback of a bird that caught your attention as a kid. Bird watching - even in the backyard - gives people of all ages a chance to take advantage of the therapeutic benefit from being outdoors. 

    I’ve been asked many times how to get kids interested in bird watching. Since starting my birding and nature tour business back in 2018, parents, grandparents and teachers have asked, ‘how do we do it?’ There's a lot of answers, but the most important thing is make it enjoyable.  

    Get kids involved and embracing what nature has to teach them with these birding tips and tricks:

    1. Grab a bird identification book

    Try to find a bird identification book that features colorful illustrations. I use the Peterson Field Guides called Eastern Birds Large Format Edition, which has the types of birds color coded by 8 visual groups. These groupings help learn visual cues such as swimmers, long-legged waders, birds of prey, and perching. Grouping gives kids specific points to look for when starting to name.  

    Practice seeing a bird then saying the first characteristic, such as perching. Look at the types within that grouping. Once your child does this a couple of times, it will become routine to notice what the bird is doing and making the connection. Positively identifying birds will light a spark that they can continue to do over and over.

    2. Get a good pair of binoculars

    Your child’s binoculars should fit comfortably and not weigh a ton in their hands. This aspect of getting them into bird watching is often missed. Take time with them at a store that sells a variety of binoculars. The magnification should be at least 10 times, water resistant and durable.  

    Remember, we want birding to be an enjoyable activity that doesn’t feel like a lost cause due to the wrong set of binoculars. Keep in mind they don’t have to be the most expensive pair but should be of good quality and sturdiness. We don’t want their bird watching to come to an end on a drop to the ground. 

    3. Feed the backyard birds

    Backyard birding is a way to let kids see birds by concentrating them to bird feeders. This also gives tasks related to bird watching, such as filling the feeder with seed and remembering to keep the feeders clean. The likelihood of birds showing up at feeders is very good even if it takes a day or so to find. Once the birds start showing up, it will light up their eyes.  

    They will also learn how important habitat is by supplying food and homes for the birds they see in the environment around them.

    4. Set an example

    I still stop at the back door and look at my bird feeders in passing. With my binoculars on the table, I easily have a bird watching moment daily. Yes, it has me on a schedule.

    Take time in the mornings to glance out the window together and see who is out there. As the seasons change, so will the birds. That show will always be a surprise in bird watching. Bird outings at the local playgrounds, parks, or nature preserves will have the family on common ground. Kids will become more familiar with birds in the area.

    Share these tips with your kids and the kids you know to get them interested in breaking screen time with an activity like bird watching. Oftentimes as adults, we start the learning process being complicated. You don’t need an ornithology degree to enjoy birds. I tell parents to make it simple and an activity that they can enjoy. Start with these tips and make it a lasting activity. Bird watching for kids is a family activity that gives everyone something to look forward to.