Tag Archives: birds

Leave your children out in the cold

So after a week of white, we’re promised yet more snowfall tonight. This brings another possibility that my three and five-year-old will again be stuck at home with school and pre-school cancelled. 

Whilst this is testing my sanity, patience and will to live, it does have one bonus.  Children all over the country are actively volunteering to go outside.

Snow guarantees children outside

Snow guarantees children outside

What I’m wondering is, how do we get them to continue outdoor pursuits when the snow eventually melts? Below is my starter for 10 (or 15)

  1. Hold a treasure hunt – why leave it until Easter
  2. Send them out looking for animal tracks – you can even memorialise one or two in plaster castes
  3. Devise an obstacle course – nothing like the competitive spirit to get my ‘must win at all costs’ daughter outside
  4. Make a spotters sheet – you can use a digital camera and print out things they have to find in their own back garden
  5. Send them out with crayons and paper to collect as many different rubbings as you can – they can then paste them into their gardening scrapbooks
  6. Make a list for a scavenger hunt
  7. Climb a tree
  8. Blow some bubbles
  9. Sink a trampoline and watch them bounce in all weathers
  10. Invest in a playhouse and let them decorate it
  11. Weave your own birds nests from twigs
  12. Make ‘magic mixtures’ – sand, dirt, stones, really anything – add water and stir – it’s disgusting but strangely compelling for the under 10s
  13. Make a bird watching tee-pee from some long poles or canes and some camouflage netting
  14. Go on a mini beast hunt
  15. Hang some homemade bird feeders in trees

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Filed under The active children's garden

Create a pine cone bird feeder

We were bored. School was shut, pre-school was closed, the novelty of the snow was wearing off, and Monkey man (my other half) had disappeared off on a business trip for the entire week.

What we needed was a good old-fashioned wintry day activity. Cue, pine cones.

This is a great, quick project to keep children interested – messy enough for the 5 and unders, easy enough to supervise with a baby on your hip.

You will need:

  • 3 medium sized pine cones (as open as possible)
  • String or twine
  • a cup of lard (or you could use suet)
  • 2 cups of oatmeal
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of birdseed (we used sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped raisins or sultanas (or other dried fruit)

Pressing the mixture into the pine cone

Pressing the mixture into the pine cone


Take 5 minutes to prepare – chop the raisins, melt the fat in a saucepan over a low heat, put out the ingredients and tie a 50cm length of string to the pine cone

Put the fat in a large bowl and let the children start adding the ingredients and stirring it together

Spoon the mixture onto the pine cones and press it into the spaces (the children can even just use their hands – messy but effective) – I suggest you put their pine cones in separate bowls to contain the destruction a little

Clear up – don’t let the children move!  Anything they touch will be covered in grease.  I bought a bowl of warm water to the table, squeezed washing up liquid on their hands and made sure they were fat-free before they got down from the table

Let the mixture cool and harden before hanging them on a tree or bush, or even from an existing bird feeder

Ours now grace the small ornamental cherry outside the playroom and we eagerly wait to see if the birds visit.  We’ll need to wait 24 hours at least as they’re always wary of new additions so I’ll let you know later if we have a feast or a flop.  Still, it entertained the kids for half an hour so in my book it’s already a success.


Pine cone feeders hanging in the tree

Pine cone feeders hanging in the tree


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Filed under Indoor gardening with children