How to Organize Wildlife-Friendly Yards To Help Your Kids Learn

In this article you’ll be learning:

  • About foods that will attract wildlife to your yard.
  • To develop a spirit of generosity.
  • To accept responsibility by taking on long-term projects.

With the rise of suburbia after the Second World War, many American lawns became manicured carpets of Kentucky bluegrass. Dad bought into the “grow-it-to-mow-it” philosophy of yard care, which goes something like this: keep it simple, plant only one species that nothing can eat, zap it on a regular basis with insecticides, and clear away anything resembling underbrush.

The result was that most of us grew up thinking that wildlife existed somewhere out there. After decades when they all but disappeared from the urban landscape, butterflies, songbirds, and small animals are being lured back by caring gardeners. Environmentally aware parents are creating wildlife-friendly yards so their children can experience nature on an every-day basis.

Wildlife Kids

Kids learn by doing. Make sure yours are involved in every stage of your backyard project from planning and construction to maintenance and enjoyment. Determine ongoing responsibilities according to each child’s age, personal interests, and level of maturity. One child may want to keep the bird feeders stocked. Another might prefer to observe, identify, and list which species of birds and beasts visit or make their homes in the yard. Rotate tasks periodically.


A Christmas tree for wildlife

Getting Organized. Many of the foods we eat are also appropriate for wildlife, but avoid prepared foods, which contain salt and preservatives. Make sure all food ingredients are at hand before you start, as well as scissors, string, thread, needles, pine cones, wire, ribbon, net, and mesh.

Preparation. Pop plain popcorn, then string it along with raisins, cranberries, grapes, and unsalted peanuts. Hang small nylon-net bags filled with birdseed and finely crushed egg shells. Tie up thinly sliced apples and oranges. Cover pine cones with a mixture of unsalted peanut butter and oatmeal. Roll in birdseed and hang.

Making Suet. Melt beef fat and let cool. Add birdseed, salt-free granola, natural peanut butter, and fruit. Shape into a ball, put into a mesh bag (one that onions come in at the grocery store), tie with a ribbon, and hang.

Trimming the Tree. Start by decorating a bush or small tree at holiday time, then keep the food replenished for the duration of the winter. Make sure you set out something for each of your wild neighbors. Don’t forget the ones you seldom see. Make this a festive occasion for the whole family. Children love making presents and decorating trees.

Feeding hummingbirds

A hummingbird project can teach responsibility if children are developmentally ready. This kind of project is most suitable for children who are detail oriented and able to stick with a project. First discuss what is involved in feeding hummingbirds.

  • How many months you will be feeding the hummers.
  • They will be in your area early spring to late fall, depending on where you live.
  • How often the feeders must be refilled.

Fill them whenever the nectar gets low (before it has completely run out) and every three to four days in the heat of summer.

  • The need to observe rules of cleanliness.

To retard mildew and fermentation, the water used to make the nectar must be boiled and the feeders must be washed and rinsed very carefully.

  • What would happen to the birds if they aren’t fed.

Hummingbirds consume fifty percent of their body weight in nectar every day. If the feeders are left empty, the birds will leave your yard to search for food elsewhere. If they can’t find any, they will not survive. This is why an honest commitment is necessary.

  • How the work should be divided.

This differs with every family. With younger children, pair them up with an adult to take down, clean, and refill the feeders. Older children can do it on their own, but you may want to switch off tasks every other week.

  • What happens when the birds receive loving care.

Everyone will be dazzled by their aerial displays and feel the satisfaction of helping these darling creatures survive without having to worry where their next meal is coming from.

To begin your project, look for feeders on sale and purchase three or four. Hummingbirds are territorial and fight like mad over what they consider their private food source. If you have several feeders, one bird can’t monopolize them all. Pick out feeders with lots of red around the feeding tube or opening because hummers respond to the color red. Hang the feeders four to five feet apart. Set them out in the spring at the time the birds are migrating north. They are looking for an area that has lots of food—either natural flowers or feeders. If the feeders aren’t out early enough, your yard may be passed by. Call your local garden shop or agricultural extension service for timing advice. Then wait patiently. Exactly when the birds arrive depends on weather along their route of migration.

A homemade sugar-and-water syrup most nearly approximates the birds’ natural food source. Flower nectar is about one-fourth sucrose, the same ingredient as white table sugar. Dissolve one part sugar and four parts warm water (for a total of five parts) in a glass container. Bring to a boil. Cool. Fill feeder only with the amount you think the birds will eat within four days. (At first you will have to experiment.) Store extra nectar in the refrigerator. Do not add red food coloring. The bright color on the feeder is sufficient to attract the birds.

Wash the feeders very carefully with soap and hot water each time they are refilled. Check to see if they’re dishwasher safe. If in doubt, wash by hand. Rinse thoroughly in a solution of vinegar and water. With older children, you can use a weak solution of bleach and water. This kills mildew spores. Refill and hang.

Never use honey. It may kill the birds. Never use artificial sugar. It has no nutritive value, and the birds will starve. Don’t use protein additives. The birds catch insects all by themselves.

If your family is interested in this type of long-term commitment, suggest the kids draw up a contract that both parents and children sign. As summer progresses, interest may lag. Avoid nagging, which may turn off your child to anything connected with the outdoors. Instead, talk with openness and consideration. Maybe someone else in the family can take on temporary responsibility to give the kids a breather.

Treat your local wildlife all year round by planting bushes and trees that bear edible fruits, nuts, and berries. Remind the children, however, that the family will only feed wildlife at home. When you travel into the wilderness, you must allow the animals who live there to forage for their own food. Finally, remember that even if you can’t tell a bobwhite from a bald eagle, it’s easy to encourage your budding naturalists in their own backyard.

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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