Sensory Activities for Preschoolers
Sensory activities are incredibly important in early years learning and development.Following last month’s sensory activities for babies and toddlers article, we now take a look at a selection of sensory activities for preschoolers. Sensory activities are incredibly important in early years learning and development. In short, they help children develop their senses so their brains and bodies can make sense of all the stimuli around them. As well as helping them to understand their physical place within the world and everything in it, good sensory perception keeps them safe and allows them to interact optimally with everything around them. Through the building of new neural pathways in the brain, sensory activities aid communication, learning, sustenance, coordination, balance, motor function, movement and much more. Such skills are indeed critical to their very survival and success. With that in mind, we look at some examples of sensory play activities that are perfect for preschoolers, below. These are suitable at home as well as at pre-school (always under adult supervision, of course) …

Sensory Play Activities for Preschoolers

Colour Shakers & Sound Shakers

Coloured beads or glitter will make sound or colour shakers even more fun!Recycled, clear plastic bottles can be made into colour or sound shakers really easily. For colour shakers, they can be filled with water and then food colouring can be added. Adding glitter or coloured beads makes it even more interesting! Children can experiment with mixing different colours, shaking or swirling them around in the bottles to see all the wonderful, visual results.

Similarly, for sound shakers, children can instead fill bottles with dried pasta shapes, uncooked rice grains or breakfast cereals that then make different sounds when shaken around.

Children can experiment, creatively, with colour and and/or sound in this way, stimulating vision, hearing, touch and coordination. They could even compose their own rhythms, adding ‘drums’ and suchlike by using, for example, wooden spoons as drumsticks and empty cartons or boxes as ‘drums’. In addition to the sensory benefits, these types of activity are a great way to teach children about recycling and repurposing something that would otherwise be discarded.

Paint & Pigment Play

Messy play Messy play with paint and pigments is wonderful for children's senses.with paint and pigments is wonderful for children’s senses, particularly those of touch and sight, but also potentially sound too. Allowing children to get really ‘hands-on’ with paint will stimulate their creative juices too. They can really let go of inhibitions if you allow them. They’ll love to get really messy with squelching paint, mixing colours with hands and even feet, mark-making with fingers or through handprints and footprints. They’ll get to grips with the way that colours mix and form new colours and tones. They’ll learn about the different feel of paints that are diluted or have a thicker consistency. They’ll even learn about the different textures that their fingertips can feel as the paint goes from wet and fluid to solid and dry. While adults take these things in their stride, we all had to learn about such things when we were little and messy play activities are a great opportunity to do so.

Creative Food

Playing with food as part of a sensory activity can offer useful learning opportunities.While it’s not usually a good idea to encourage children to play with food, doing so as part of a sensory activity can offer a useful learning opportunity and is great fun for them if supervised appropriately. The key is to ensure they understand that this is a learning activity, not a meal time, in this particular scenario. Activities can include making faces and other images out of their food (broccoli for trees and so on) as well as combining different food textures, colours and tastes together in creative ways. They’ll enjoy the hands-on nature of this activity as well as honing sensory skills like touch, taste, smell and visual senses. Fine motor skills will also benefit. At the end of the activity, and assuming hygiene has been suitably good, they can even eat the results! As well as being good from a creative and sensory standpoint, food creativity may even encourage them to try different foods, tastes and food textures — great for fussy eaters!

Sand Play

Playing with sand is always a massive hit with children, particularly in their early years.Playing with sand is always a massive hit with children, particularly in their early years. A sandpit, sand table or visit to a sandy beach will give preschoolers wonderful play opportunities with this fascinating, natural material. Through hands-on play, they’ll get to enjoy and learn from the different textures, consistencies and states that are possible when sand is dry, moist or even runny through mixing it with water. Building of sandcastles is, of course, a natural progression, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s possible when playing with sand. Sandcastles using pre-shaped buckets are all very well. However, the magical and organic-looking sand ‘mountains’ that can be made through running extremely wet sand through the hands is on another level. Sand is so adaptable and the list of multi-sensory play activities using it is only limited by a child’s imagination. With sand, they play and learn in an almost effortless way.

Playing with Dough

With dough, you can add rich colour stimulation into the sensory mix.Playing with dough offers similar opportunities for sensory and creative discovery. With dough, though, you can add rich colour stimulation into the mix. Whether shop-bought, or home-made with salt dough and food colouring, playing with dough is always a huge hit with children. It stimulates the mind and the senses in so many ways. Touch, sight, and even smell are the more obvious senses that are stimulated, but vestibular (movement) and proprioception (body position) are also potentially stimulated and enhanced through dough play. It’s highly creative too, of course, with opportunities to form sculptures, animals, characters and anything a child can imagine. Some types can even be baked (under adult supervision), so they harden. Then, children have created their very own toys!

Sensory Gardens

If you have a garden, allotment, balcony or windowsill, making a sensory garden is a wonderful activity for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds.If you have a garden, allotment, balcony or windowsill, making a sensory garden is a wonderful sensory activity for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. Preschoolers will have real fun planting seeds, herbs, scented flowers and suchlike, then watching them grow. This can be quite a creative process too. Once they’ve grown, the children then get to enjoy all the wonderful smells, textures and colours too. If you are growing herbs with your child, even their taste senses will be in for a treat. Sensory gardens are a real feast for the senses, stimulating touch, coordination, balance and body awareness during the building phase then smell, sight, touch and potentially taste once complete. (Close supervision is essential, of course, particularly in regard to avoiding any poisonous or toxic plants).

Nature

Time spent in the countryside, immersed in nature, is the ultimate sensory experience for children.Taking this a step further, time spent in the countryside, immersed in nature, is the ultimate sensory experience for children. Spending time in the natural world with your child teaches them so much and stimulates potentially all the senses — sight, touch, smell, hearing, vestibular (the movement sense) and proprioception (the sense of body position). Even taste may be stimulated if some safe, edible vegetables or fruits are discovered. (Learn more about the benefits of nature to children here and learn more about our Birmingham Forest School here).

Sensory Play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston

Our Edgbaston nursery provides a huge variety of sensory play equipment and multi-sensory activities, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.We understand the profound importance of sensory play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. As such, we provide a huge variety of sensory play equipment and multi-sensory activities at the setting, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Discovery and learning through the senses helps little ones develop in so many ways. For example, aiding physical development, mobility, cognitive skills, motor skills, coordination and, not least, their understanding of the world and their safe place within it. We hope that the examples of sensory activities above help parents or guardians with a few ideas for continuation of this learning journey at home.

Childcare & Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Are you looking for good nurseries and pre-schools in Birmingham or Edgbaston? Or perhaps you need a childcare nursery near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick or the B16 area? If so, please consider Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We’re a high quality childcare nursery and pre-school based in Gillott Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham (B16 0ET). Please click a button below to make contact and we’ll be happy to tell you more or to show you and your little one around …

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers
Sensory play ideas to help babies and toddlers during early learning and development.In our last post, we examined the importance of sensory perception in under-fives. It was clear how incredibly important such sensory perception is for young children and how their very survival relies on being in touch with their senses. Through these senses, they learn about the world and everything around them. This also trains their bodies and brains to recognise the stimuli and automatically react. It helps them to know what’s good or bad for them, keep themselves safe and be able to live and communicate successfully in the world. With that background in mind, we follow up today with a look at some examples of sensory play activities that can help babies and toddlers during their early learning and development.

SAFETY FIRST: Always supervise your baby or child, so they don’t hurt themselves, touch or ingest anything that could harm them.

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers

Bubbles are a feast for the sensesBubbles

Watching colourful bubbles floating in the air is sure to be a big hit with babies and toddlers alike. You can almost see the sense of wonder in their expressions as they watch them float. To them, bubbles are magical as they hang in the air with their wonderful rainbow colours gently moving around on the surfaces. Babies will be even more delighted when a bubble lands on their skin. They’re a feast for sight as well as touch at the moment the bubble lands and delicately bursts.

Sensory Foil

Sensory foil is a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of sounds that they find fascinating.There is a type of safe sensory foil blanket on the market that you can buy for babies. It’s been a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of different sounds that totally intrigue them. What’s more, it doesn’t have the sharp edges associated with some types of paper. Babies can simply lie and roll around on the foil blanket to enjoy the sounds, or scrunch them with their hands to have more control or to hear louder sounds. It’s a great way for them to hone their hand-eye control, fine motor and listening skills. They’re also great visually, particularly if there are any coloured lights or objects in the room that will reflect on the foil in magical ways. Generally speaking, babies are mesmerised by sensory foil, so give it a try if you haven’t done so.

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze 'pods'.Scents

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze ‘pods’ (see photo example). Simply waft near your baby’s nose to let them enjoy the wonderful smell of lemon, mint leaves, and so on. Be mindful of possible pollen allergies and toxins, though, so do your safety research on any contents before exposing your baby to them.

Black & White/High Contrast Cards & Books

Black & white images will allow young babies to see and recognise shapes more clearly as well as synchronise those images in both eyes together.Did you know that high contrast images are great for young babies? That’s because lower contrast images, especially pastels, may be lost on them as their eyesight isn’t yet fully developed. Also, with relatively poor eyesight and eye coordination when they’re first born, high contrast black and white images will help babies to match the images they perceive in one eye with the same image in the other.

Babies will not recognise the full spectrum of colours that we see as adults until around five months of age. That’s another reason books or cards containing images in high contrast black and white are becoming more popular in recent times for this age group. They allow infants to see and recognise shapes more clearly than lower-contrast alternatives as well as having the aforementioned eye/image coordination benefit. This visual sensory stimulation is also thought to help their brain syntaxes to develop faster in a kind of beneficial ‘feedback loop’.

Sound Activities

Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making.Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making. This type of activity will allow them to experiment with different ways to make sounds, stimulating auditory senses as well as helping them to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It’ll also help them to understand cause and effect more clearly, i.e. to associate sounds they’re making with their causes.

In the most simple approach, babies and toddlers can use something like a building block as a ‘drum’ and a wooden spoon as a ‘drumstick’ and gradually learn to tap away. Babies aren’t born with great coordination, so this is a good first step to give them more control over limbs. Taking it a step further, a responsible adult can make them sound shakers by half-filling clean plastic bottles with dried rice, pasta or similar and then sealing securely. Once safely sealed, babies and toddlers can have fun shaking them to hear the different sounds that can be made through their own actions. Such sensory activities will help them learn in so many ways, both in terms of physical skills and coordination as well as making new brain connections and associations.

Different Materials & Textures

Your baby can also be introduced to different materials and textures like this feather example.Your baby or infant can also be introduced to different materials and textures (suitably supervised for safety, of course, and any choking hazards avoided). Whether it’s a piece of velvet, faux fur or a feather, babies and toddlers will be very intrigued by the look and feel. So, think about introducing them to a variety of materials, both man-made and natural, that perhaps contrast each other so the child can learn how to connect the look of something to the feel of it. These are basic skills, but ones we each had to learn at a very early age.

Food

Once your baby or toddler has been weaned onto solids (e.g. as purée or liquidised foods), they can explore different tastes and food textures. They may be more likely to do so if you give them a spoon, so they can learn to control which food they taste, perhaps from a variety of options that you have prepared for them to try. When they’re suitably dextrous, a variety of finger foods can also be given to them to try. Take precautions, of course, in regard to possible allergens, so choose food types with caution and do your research.

In these ways, various senses will be stimulated in new ways and fine motor skills will improve. Also, exposing them to a variety of different foods and tastes early may give them a broader set of food preferences once they’re older i.e. potentially make them less likely to become fussy eaters.

Nature

Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous.Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous. There’s something amazing to see, hear, smell, touch and feel everywhere (under close adult supervision, of course). Flowers, with their scents and beautiful colours, will amaze them. Or, have you ever noticed the different smells after it rains, or the warm breeze brush past your face on a sunny day? These will all be new to babies and a feast for the senses. Indeed, nature is the ultimate tool for sensory awakening for babies and toddlers. That’s one of the many reasons that Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is also a Forest School (learn more about our Edgbaston/Birmingham Forest School here).

Sensory Activities at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, we fully understand the importance of sensory play, so build sensory-based activities into the learning and development plan for every child. Each child has access to multi-sensory play equipment and we even have a sensory zone. Stimulation of senses at this early age does so much to help in early years development. It helps integrate a comprehensive view of the world into children’s very beings and reinforces their safe place within it. It helps to build new pathways in the brain and vastly improves cognitive skills. It aids physical development including coordination and motor skills and so much more. We hope some of the sensory discovery ideas above are useful for parents/guardians to use as part of their child’s home learning activities. Next time we’ll look at sensory activities for preschoolers.

Nursery Places in Edgbaston/Birmingham

For more information about a nursery place at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, please get in touch. We’re a high quality nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick.

The Importance of Sensory Perception in Under-5s

Sight helps babies to recognise parents and, as they grow into children, everything else around them.Today, in the first of a series of posts about the senses, we’ll explore the importance of successful sensory exploration for babies and under-fives. As adults, we tend to take the processing of external sensations and stimuli for granted. However, we were not born with an understanding of most of these; we discovered them, learned about their significance and hard-wired our understanding of them into our brains during our earliest years.

What do we Mean by Sensory Stimuli?

It’s all about the senses, but not only sight, sound, smell, touch and taste; we have other senses that help us to understand and make sense of the world and everything it contains. For example, balance and movement senses are known as vestibular senses. The sensing of information via our body position is known as our proprioception sense. We get to understand the world through our senses during the early years.Through all of these, we have a kind of holistic view of the world. When you think about it, processing and integration of external stimuli, through our senses, is crucial for our entire wellbeing. After all, we need to be mindful of things that can harm us just as much as knowing what will be useful or good for us.

How do the Senses Help Children Develop?

Our many senses tell our minds and bodies about the environment, about objects, living things, foods, drink, appearance, smells, danger, pleasure, pain and a whole myriad of additional information about our immediate surroundings. The earlier we start to recognise, process and integrate the significance of these external stimuli, the better it will be for our understanding of the world, our general wellbeing and indeed survival.

Why Else is Sensory Perception So Important?

Understanding the significance of external stimuli, through the senses, is crucial to our understanding of the world and indeed survival.Sensory experiences are crucial, particularly during early years development. Correctly identifying and understanding the significance of external stimuli, through the senses, allows babies and infants to begin to successfully play their part in the world. It helps them to navigate the things in it, to participate in activities without harming themselves and ultimately to grow and develop as humans successfully. Without understanding and integrating knowledge via the senses, children would be held back in many, profound ways. Simple tasks would be almost impossible. It would be akin to being conscious yet totally unable to operate or even understand our body’s capabilities nor to understand the world we found ourselves in. Without mastery of our senses, our very existence would be under continuous threat.

  • Sight initially helps babies to identify and recognise parents and, as they grow into children, everything else around them.
  • Sound also helps babies to recognise the voice of their own parents (even when still in the womb) and later also helps with communication. It also helps them to be forewarned about what might be close by, whether or not it is in sight.
  • Smell and taste senses are closely linked and have a huge impact on the appeal, or otherwise, of possible food sources.Smell and taste senses are closely linked and clearly have a huge impact on the appeal, or otherwise, of possible food sources, particularly milk in the early stages. Interestingly, smell also has close links to long-term memory, for example how a particular place smells. Just a tiny whiff of a long-forgotten scent can bring back instant memories of a time long ago, way into adulthood.
  • Touch senses not only tell babies and children about the environment and objects around them, for example whether things are hot, cold, soft or sharp. It also helps them to learn about how to control their own fingers, limbs, muscles and movements in order to control those things if needed. Without a deep understanding and integration of touch skills, our bodies would be rather out of control, in danger of harm and really quite unable to function satisfactorily.
  • Balance and movement (proprioception) and vestibular (sensing through body position) senses help us understand and adapt to external forces like gravity, weight, wind and even to the consequences of our own movements. If we do not process and integrate a comprehensive understanding of such stimuli and effects, we would not be able to walk, run, cycle, swim, dress or even lift objects and tools in a satisfactory way. Balance and movement (proprioception) and vestibular (sensing through body position) senses help us understand and adapt to external forces like gravity and even to the consequences of our own movements.Anyone observing a recently born baby will indeed be able to notice the lack of intent and control over limb movement, for example. Within weeks, though, that same baby will have assimilated everything it needs to know, through the senses, in order to adapt each muscle and limb movement to meet its goals and needs.

Learning about the senses helps babies and infants tell one sense or stimulus from another. With a cacophony of such stimuli often around them, this skill is incredibly important as it helps them to ‘filter’ what needs their attention and what can, at any point in time, be ignored.

Mastery of the senses also helps children’s brains to develop. As senses are explored, perceived and integrated, millions of new pathways are formed in the brain. These will set up good foundations upon which to build additional connections as children grow and develop.

Even language skills are improved because of the senses.Even language skills are improved because of the senses, not least because children will learn a new vocabulary around how things look, smell, taste, sound, feel and so on. In this way, they’ll be able to more specifically describe objects and environments and understand their own place within the world. This language enhancement also helps them to think in more creative ways.

In our next post, we’ll continue to explore senses as we look at some of the sensory play activities that can help young children integrate a comprehensive view of the world and their place within it. So, do come back for another update soon.

A Nursery Near Birmingham (B16), Ladywood, Harborne, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery has a whole raft of sensory activities to help children absolutely flourish. Leaps & Bounds is a weekday childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16. If you’re looking for outstanding nurseries near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, we are conveniently close. We’re also one of the few Forest Schools in Birmingham, where under-fives can enjoy and learn from nature in the local open spaces, woodlands and reservoirs around Edgbaston and Birmingham. Choose a button below to find out more or to arrange a visit:

Apply for a Place Book a Tour Contact Us 0121 246 4922

Jokes to Tickle Tots: for toddlers, preschoolers & under 5s

Here’s a little something to amuse the little ones in your life — a dozen jokes suitable for young children, including preschoolers and toddlers.  Please feel free to bookmark them in your browser or to share them on social media as these will brighten anyone’s day! Our own personal favourite is the Elephant joke. Take a look (click for a larger view) …

Laughter is important.

Science has proved again and again that laughter is good for you, whether you are a child or an adult. However, a sense of humour is a learned thing apparently; we’re not born with it. So, regular exposure to funny things when we’re very young will help us to develop an appreciation of amusing things and to grow our own unique sense of humour. With that in place, children learn to see the world in alternative ways and this, in turn, helps them to think more creatively.

When we laugh, our brain releases endorphins and these make us feel good, lifting our spirit and mood. In short, it can make us happy. Laughter is even known to help us become less prone to ailments like depression and resilient against physical illness. It also helps us cope in the face of adversity. Laughter can help children to have greater self-esteem and it can improve their social skills with those around them. It can even mask pain. There are so many benefits! (Perhaps we’ll go into more depth about the merits of laughter in a future post).

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps and Bounds is a nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham (near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood) with its own Forest School. We offer outstanding childcare for babies and under-fives and, through a learning and development programme tailored for each child, ensure they are school-ready by the time they leave us. If you’d like to explore the possibility of your child attending one of Birmingham’s best nurseries, please get in touch:

10 Reasons to Read With Your Child
The benefits from parents reading with children are profound and life-changingThere are a many reasons why every parent should regularly read with their children. The benefits to children are profound and some are effectively life-changing, so this is something really important that every parent should do for their child. Let’s take a look at the facts, proven by study after study across the world …

1. A Fun Way to be Quietly Educated

Reading with your child is a really fun and immersive way for a child to be educated yet it happens in a very natural way that doesn’t feel in any way like studying, nor like a formal lesson. It can also be a fun ‘escape’ for the parent!

2. A Massive Boost to Language Skills

Regularly reading with your child has been proven to increase their language skills by an impressive 20%. In a study by the Nuffield Foundation using data stretching back over 40 years, children aged on average 3¼ years old were found to have boosted language skills by the equivalent of 8 months of early years education. That’s a huge leap given their very young age.

3. Reading Helps Learning in Every Other Area

Reading with an adult boosts language skills and improves overall literacyBoosting language skills in this way, during their critically-important pre-school years, will help them in every other discipline and topic. After all, if they have a better understanding of language, they will pick up instructions, information and knowledge much more easily. Reading directly teaches children about the world, giving them greater knowledge of a wider range of topics — and this can only stand them in good stead going forwards.

4. Better Literacy Overall

Reading with an adult helps children to grasp phonetics, letter patterns and syllables, greatly improving word recognition and reading methodology. With an adult present and reading a shared book together, the child can ask questions and the adult can point out important details about word structure, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. The parent will soon learn where the child needs additional help and focus too. In this way, the child will learn to read more thoroughly and progress more quickly in multiple areas of learning. Their overall communication, reading, writing and literacy will improve far more quickly because of the adult facilitation.

5. Increased Creativity Through Stimulated Imaginations

Creativity is also boosted when children are encouraged to read. After all, if they read more, they will be exposed to a wider range of storytelling and this, in itself, will give them a window into creativity, hugely stimulating their imaginations.

6. More Empathy & Better Social Skills

Regularly reading boosts empathy and social skillsChildren can develop a greater feeling of empathy if they have explored more books with parents or carers. As they discover different characters and scenarios, they’ll learn to feel for some of those characters and perhaps the predicaments that some get themselves into. Improving feelings of empathy can only be a good thing, leading to better social skills, closer bonds with others and a good grasp in regard to what’s right and what’s wrong.

7. It Levels the Socio-Economic Playing Field

Reading with children in their early years is also a great social leveller. By that, we mean that the performance boost they receive through reading with adults evens things up between children from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those from higher ones. Reading evens up the playing field and by a significant amount.

8. Greater Preparedness for School

In turn, all the above benefits are sure to set children in good stead when they start school at the age of around five. With the greater language skills and knowledge gleaned through reading at a higher level, they will hit the ground running more easily when they begin school.

9. A Long-Term Boost to Education, Careers & Life Choices

In turn again, this boost when they start school will have an impact on their success during school and likely past school into higher education. Where they have been streamed at school, the educational boost they will have had earlier in their lives will positively impact their level of education at every subsequent stage. Ultimately, that could well lead to better outcomes, careers and quality of life when they reach adulthood. That’s an enormous benefit, simply because parents were actively involved in their reading.

10. Closer Bonds Between Parent & Child

Reading with a baby or toddler is a great way to form a closer bondReading regularly together will also lead to a closer bond between parent and child. This has been proven in studies. It’s good quality time, spent together in a common venture. The subject matter of the reading can also be a great discussion point between the two individuals going forwards.

Read with children, not just to them — the biggest benefits come when parent and child are both proactively involved.

Reading at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston (Birmingham)

We take all of this on board at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston. Indeed, reading with children is all part of the EYFS curriculum at the nursery. We work on reading with the children ourselves, involving them in interactive ways including inviting input, asking questions and encouraging feedback from them throughout. Of course, we also encourage parents of babies and children under our care to actively involve themselves in their child’s education, including in their reading when at home. As we have seen, there are so many benefits for the child if they do this. Outcomes are so positively affected that parental input at home is crucial for their children’s life-long outcomes.

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Ladywood, Bearwood & Harborne B16Please get in touch if you are interested in a possible place for your baby, toddler or under-five child at one of Birmingham’s best nurseries and pre-schools. The nursery is close to Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Birmingham. You can email/message or book a visit to the nursery here, or call 0121 246 4922 to speak to us (please leave a message if you reach voicemail and we’ll call you back). We look forward to hearing from you.

Home-made Bird Feeders – Ideas for Kids
Earlier this month, we published a detailed article about making gardens wildlife-friendly for kids. We promised to follow up with a post showing a variety of ways for children to make home-made bird feeders — and that is the subject of this article today. We hope toddlers, young children and their parents enjoy making the feeders and seeing all the new feathered visitors that will subsequently come.

A robin with fresh bread in a treeThere are hundreds of types of bird in the UK, so if you leave tasty food out for them, a variety are bound to visit. Be patient though, because birds are rightly suspicious of ‘new’ objects, so may take a few days to build up the courage to take a closer look.

Editor’s note: In our garden, we regularly see Robins, Sparrows, Starlings, Blue Tits, Cole Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Great Tits at our bird feeders. Blackbirds, Pigeons and Thrushes also peck at what falls beneath them. However, now that our bird feeders are more established and ‘trusted’ by the birds, we’re seeing Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Black Caps regularly too (they’re really cute!) and, occasionally, brightly coloured Bullfinches.

A Greater Spotted WoodpeckerOnce they’re convinced that the new feeders are safe, birds will visit regularly if you continue to leave out tasty treats for them and keep your distance, out of sight. You will soon learn which foods are the most popular, so can fine-tune your bird offerings as time goes by. It’s extremely rewarding seeing who will come and which of the birds will become ‘regulars’. We have a pair of Robins (both called Robin!), a blackbird called Norris and a Woodpecker that we call Woody (what else!). Naming regular bird visitors is all part of the fun for kids. Feeding birds is also educational for young children, who will not only get to know the different species, but also grow their appreciation of the outdoors, nature, and our impact on it. Often, an early exposure to nature and some of its wonderful creatures can lead to a life-long appreciation. This can help the creatures living nearby and the mental wellbeing of the children themselves as they develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world.

Home-made Bird Feeder Ideas

Bird seed comes in several varietiesIn our last post, we mentioned some commercially-available bird food, but here we’ll take a look at some home-made bird treats that children, parents and guardians can make for the birds at home. They’re pretty quick and easy to make and can often be made from materials and ingredients that are available in the home kitchen. Children may need to ask an adult to buy some seeds, as these are very popular with wild birds. Garden centres and supermarkets usually offer a variety of seeds that are suitable for birds, including different bird seed mixes.

First, a safety note: Children should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times, including around any tools that are required (e.g. scissors and knives) and also around any ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction (e.g. some children may be allergic to nuts).

With a little imagination, lots of things can be made into bird feeders; from empty cartons, used Easter egg boxes (but remove all trace of chocolate as it’s poisonous to birds), empty plastic bottles, the cardboard core from kitchen towel/toilet rolls and so on. Here are just a few ideas, though, that we’ve tried ourselves:

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Pine cone covered in peanut butter or lard plus seedsThese are quick and easy! Here are the steps to making your own pine cone bird feeder:

  1. When you’re next out walking near pine trees, pick up one or two nicely-shaped pine cones whose ‘seed scales’ are opening. It’s important that they’re open, as that’s where much of the bird food will go (described in steps 3 & 4 below). If they’re only open a little bit, bring them indoors into the warm house for a few days and they’re more likely to open more fully.
  2. Tie some string to the one end (whichever is easiest) and that will later be used to hang the pine cone feeder outside for the birds.
  3. Cover the pine cone with peanut butter or lard using a suitable implement from the kitchen A pine cone bird feeder stripped of food by birds(e.g. a spatula or blunt knife — under close adult supervision, of course). This should be pressed into the open scales.
  4. Roll the sticky pine cone into a tray or flat plate of bird seeds, which should easily stick to the peanut butter or lard. Try to ensure that some of the seeds get pressed into the seed scale openings of the pine cone. Birds will enjoy the process of digging those out.
  5. Tie the seeded pine cone somewhere suitable* for the birds outside.
  6. Once they’re used to the new addition (and it can take a few days), birds will start to come for the delicious seeds, so long as they feel they are safe*.

Hanging Bread Feeder

A slice of fresh bread, ideally brown or granary bread, can be used in a similar way to the pine cone above. An end crust may work best as it’ll be stronger when held Hanging bread bird feeder (N.B always remove it if it starts to go mouldy)by the piece of string (alternatively garden wire can be used so long as no sharp ends are left protruding otherwise they birds can be caught up in it or become injured). So, the bread needs coating with lard or peanut butter (both sides) and then the seeds need to be pressed into that sticky coating. Once coated, it can be hung outside* using a similar approach to the pine cone feeder above. Simple! If children want to get even more creative, by the way, they can use bagels, with the string being threaded through the hole in the middle. N.B. Never allow bread or other bird foods to become mouldy as the mould is very harmful to birds.

Carton Bird Feeder

Home-made carton bird feederWho would have thought it; a milk or juice carton can be made into an excellent bird feeder! It requires the use of scissors or a knife, so it’s best for this one to be made partly by an adult:

  1. Take an empty juice or milk carton (a ‘Tetra Pak’ type with the waxy folded card – see image), or indeed an empty plastic water bottle would do;
  2. Unscrew the cap and wash it thoroughly and allow to dry.
  3. An adult should pierce a hole near the top. This will later be used to attach string, from which it will hang.
  4. Using pointed scissors or a sharp knife, a responsible adult should then carefully cut the shapes shown in the accompanying image. The idea is for there to be an area at the bottom of the carton/bottle, about 2 to 3 inches from the base, which will eventually be filled with bird food.
  5. Children can also thread ground nuts, cereals, grapes or apple on string for birds to eatThe feeder can be just a feeder or it can be made to look like an owl or other creature using a little imagination. For example, some flaps cut on the sides could look like wings.
  6. Some carton types can be painted by the child, so it looks attractive. Acrylic paint is best as it’ll stay put, once dry, even if it rains. It can be bright but more natural colours are much less likely to frighten off the birds.
  7. A stick or stiff straw can be pierced into the feeder near the bottom (not shown), for the birds to land on, or some flaps can be left open (shown right) for the same purpose. Ensure there are no sharp ends or edges anywhere otherwise birds (or humans) may be injured.
  8. Fill the bottom section with bird seed, small pieces of fresh bread or other bird food and hang up somewhere suitable* for the birds. Once they’re used to it, they should soon be landing and poking their heads inside to peck at the tasty treats.

Apple Bird Feeder

Children can ask a responsible adult for help with this one. There are a few ways apples can be used to feed birds; they can be placed on the ends of twigs, branches or sticks (see image, right), cut into slices and threaded onto hanging string, or made into a fully-fledged ‘feeder’ as outlined below …

  1. Apple feeders are very popular with blackbirdsFirst, the adult will need to carefully remove the apple core from a whole apple, so there is a neat hole right from the top of the apple to the bottom. It’s important, though, to ensure that the remainder of the apple remains in one piece.
  2. Then, get some string and make a knotted loop in one end and pass that loop from the top of the apple almost to the bottom, through the hole.
  3. The adult should then pierce the apple with a thin (e.g. 5 or 6mm thick) stick near the bottom of the apple, at right angles to the central hole.
  4. As it pierces the apple through the centre hole, the loop of the string can be threaded over the stick before it’s pushed through the second half of the apple. In this way, it’s trapped. A second stick can be pierced through the apple, ideally also passing through the loop in the string, at right angles to the first. In this way, there will be a ‘cross’ perch, with four protruding perches for birds to land on and sit at when eating.
  5. Pointed seeds can even be pierced into the skin of the apple to coat it lightly (if too fiddly, an adult can make little holes in the skin for the seeds to be pushed into).
  6. The whole thing can then be suspended by the string outside, somewhere suitable*.

If you want to be more creative, you can thread more fruits, grapes or ground nuts (peanuts in their shells) onto the same string and perhaps give them seed coatings too.

* Siting Your Bird Feeders

Sparrowhawk - a bird of preyBirds are under pretty much constant fear of attack from predators, so it’s important to locate your bird feeders where birds are safest and most likely to feel secure enough to eat. Therefore bird feeders should be:

  • high enough off the ground to be safe from predators like cats. 1½ metres off the ground would be a good minimum height, for example.
  • low enough for children or their parents/guardians to be able to refill or change them once all the food has gone (so it’s a balance);
  • suspended or sited ideally under cover from the canopy of a larger tree, bush, roof or building overhang of some kind. This is so that the birds are less likely to be attacked from above by birds of prey like Sparrowhawks (shown right). People are often unaware that such birds are even around, but they’re silent and cunning and often lurk inconspicuously without anyone realising. However, once they attack, they come rapidly out of nowhere, usually from above, and are then gone in a flash along with their bird or rodent dinner. Bird feeders situated under some kind of canopy or overhang will therefore generally be more popular with feeding birds than those exposed directly to sky above.

Birds will also appreciate some fresh, clean water, by the way. They also love a bird bath. Take a look at our previous post for more information.

Learn More About Our Forest School at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is located in Edgbaston, near Birmingham. It’s is a childcare nursery as well as being a Forest School setting. This gives under-fives access to the natural world and to nature in the local Birmingham area and it teaches them so much. We’re keen for children to also enjoy nature – including birds – at home too, so these home-made bird feeder ideas should allow families to enjoy birds, even if they don’t have a garden. Learn more about Forest School in our comprehensive guideIf you are interested in a place for your baby, toddler or under-5 child at a nursery, pre-school or Forest School in Edgbaston, or near to Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, call 0121 246 4922, contact us, or book a visit here. We’ll be very happy to hear from you.