Watching wildlife in their own backyard is one of the most rewarding and inspiring activities that a child can do. I don’t even know the innumerable hours I spent as a child watching the squirrels gathering nuts for the winter and birds building their nests in the spring. Many seasons I sat in quiet observation of the raccoon kits as they outgrew their mother’s care and the flowers as they over-flowed their garden beds. I befriended the toad who made his burrow beneath my patio and awaited his awakening each evening as the day came to an end, frequently catching little fireflies to feed him.
Nothing makes me happier than knowing I can give my children a similar experience. Sending them outside everyday to connect with the world around them, in their own ways.
Of course, if you live in an urban area or have a small outdoor space, you may have to encourage the wildlife to come to you. Luckily, there are many frugal ways you can do that.
One of the most obvious ways to attract birds and squirrels is to put food out for them.
There are many ways you can make a feeder using supplies you already have on hand. One popular method is the smear peanut butter onto a pine cone and roll it in the seed, then hang the pine cone in the tree.
I prefer to make feeders out of old plastic bottles.
Simply cut the bottom few inches off of a 2-liter plastic bottle. Cut a few small holes in the bottom of the container so that rain water may drain through, but don’t make the holes large enough for the seed to fall out. Then secure the food dish to a tree or pole using 2 nails or screws. (If you only use 1 nail or screw, then it will tip over when the bird lands on one side of it.) I like to leave one nail sticking out a couple inches, to give the bird a place to sit while it eats.
Besides feeding them, it also helps encourage birds and other nesting animals to make their homes near you if you supply them with nesting supplies. A nesting bag can easily be created out of piece of mesh (re-purposed potato sack, bath loofa, or tutu) stuffed with soft materials. String left over from sewing projects, hair that you clean out of your hairbrush, bits of yarn and ribbons, straws, etc..
Of course, birds and squirrels aren’t the only wildlife that we can benefit from having around.
A big aspect of our disconnect from nature is caused by our well-groomed lawns and parks. Without brush and tall grasses, many insects and small animals have no place to hide from predators. Without shelter, the population numbers for these animals drops considerably in urban areas.
You can battle this problem by dedicating one small corner of your yard to providing a safe haven for little critters. It doesn’t have to be much, just a little pile of leaves and sticks will do.
I myself have a leaf compost pile which frequently has little visitors hiding in it.
You can however make a small insect habitat in a space as small as an apartment patio. One super easy bug hotel can be created by stuffing sticks and pine cones into an old cement block.
Besides attracting wildlife to your yard, it is also important not to deter wildlife from your yard.
Adding a lot of lights, for example, will deter nocturnal animals such as owls and bats. Both of which are excellent for pest control. Owls eat mice, voles, and occasionally snakes. Bats will greatly reduce your mosquito population!
For ideas to help your child connect with the natural world around them, check out my Nature Study Pinterest board.by