Spring is a time when everyone seems to head outside after a long winter and begin to enjoy the outdoors again. This is a great time to spend an afternoon as a family. One fun tradition to start is by making nesting balls for the birds as they build their nests, and to go on a nature scavenger hunt.
Our back yard is home to 5 bird houses. My husband made one with his grandfather and each of our children made one with their grandfather (my husbands dad) a fun family tradition. It has been fun to watch them each year become homes to little bird families.
A nesting ball is simply a ball that you fill with items that birds can use to make their nests. It should cost nothing to put together. You should use all natural items. Have your family gather things like:
For the ball: Upcycle by using a net bag that onions /produce came in. Any mesh with fairly decent sized openings will work. Birds aren't picky!
To Fill The Ball:
*Cotton Batting (the soft cotton fibers that are in medicine bottles is perfect (it's not too compacted and pulls apart easily.) If you do decide to use cotton balls I highly recommend you "unroll them" into a strip and slightly pull the fibers apart so the birds can grab strands of them.
*Pet hair: cat/dog/rabbit/etc.(ALWAYS THE FIRST THING THE BIRDS TAKE!)
*Human hair (only if it is chemical free : no dyes or hair products)
*tiny strips of cotton material such as t-shirts but it should be 100% cotton and cut into tiny strips (like grass)
*yarn or ribbons if they are cut into strips and are cotton.
DO NOT USE:
Dryer Lint (when wet it turns to a cement like product. It is not recommended)
Any synthetic materials or items: Strips of plastic bags, etc.
Fill the net bag with all the gathered items. Pull a bit of the items through the holes so they stick out a bit for the birds to grab a hold of.
Gather at the top, tie closed with a string.
Go outside and hang from a branch or fence. Pick somewhere the kids can watch from inside the house during the next few weeks.
Optional: Cut long grasses, and leaves (such as iris leaves ) and feathers etc. and lay them around the yard for the birds to find and gather also.
Take the family on a nature scavenger hunt and picnic!
My very most favorite website with all kinds of scavenger hunt lists for kids is :
It has tons of lists. They contain pictures for younger children as well as easy to read lists for older children. Many of the lists have an option for downloading to a mobile device in case you just want to grab your i-phone to use it on the hunt. For a nature walk, go to outside hunts, then click on nature hunts. They have tons to choose from (a trip to the zoo- to bird watching).
So, the next warm afternoon you are looking to keep your children busy and not in front of a TV have them each make a nesting ball and go for a scavenger hunt walk. Find a place to hang the balls while they are out. Have them look for signs of spring. Nothing is more fun than finding a nest with little pieces of colored yarn that your child put in a nesting ball!
Jan's Tip: This would also be a great activity to do along with making bird seed tree hangers too! On your nature walk, pick out pinecones. Come home, smear peanut butter on them and roll them in bird seed. Hang them on trees in your yard!
Enjoy starting a new spring tradition in your family!