February is National Bird Feeding Month. Our feathered friends are making the final push to get through the winter, and they could use some help. Making bird feeders is the perfect stuck-inside-on-a-snow-day activity for the kids, and the final products are a nice way to decorate your yard. Here are the instructions for three easy-to-make bird feeders.
Toilet Paper Bird Feeder
This simple craft uses items that you probably already have around the house, and it’s easy enough for preschoolers to construct. Just make sure you have plenty of paper towels on hand – things will get messy, and there might even be some finger licking involved!
Creamy peanut butter (if peanut allergy is an issue, substitute with sunflower butter)
Toilet paper tubes
– Pour enough birdseed onto a baking sheet to cover the whole surface, and set up each participant with a toilet paper tube, a piece of ribbon, a plate, and a plastic knife.
– Working over the plate, use the knife to spread peanut butter over the toilet paper tube, covering the entire exterior.
– Roll the tube over the tray of birdseed, pressing down so that the seeds stick to the peanut butter. Use your fingers to patch up any missed spots with birdseed.
– Thread the ribbon through the tube, and tie a bow on top.
Cereal Bird Feeder
Give the birds a break from the birdseed with this feeder that uses oat cereal instead. Part bird-feeder craft, part fine-motor skills practice, this activity should keep your kids occupied for a while, especially if they’re munching on the cereal as they’re stringing it, as mine were.
O-shaped oat cereal (like Cheerios)
– Set up each participant with three pipe cleaners, a piece of ribbon, and a bowl of cereal.
– String the cereal through the first pipe cleaner, and continue adding to it until half an inch is left on each end. Twist the ends together to form a circle.
– Repeat with the second pipe cleaner, but before twisting together the ends, insert one end through the loop of the first pipe cleaner to form a link. Do the same with the third pipe cleaner.
– Thread a ribbon through the first pipe cleaner, and tie a bow on top. The pipe cleaners can be gently bent into different shapes, like the hearts pictured here.
Ornament Bird Feeder
These ornament bird feeders require some patience to complete (you have to wait a day for the gelatin to completely dry), but the steps are fairly simple and the results are impressive. They make great gifts for anyone in need of some wintertime cheer. The instructions below are for making two to three ornaments, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.
Unflavored gelatin (available at the supermarket in the Jell-O section)
– In a medium bowl, combine 1 packet gelatin with 1/4 cup hot water. Stir until the particles are completely dissolved.
– Add 3/4 cup birdseed, and continue stirring until all the ingredients are well-integrated. The mixture should be fairly dry; if it’s very wet, add a spoonful of birdseed and continue mixing.
– Give each participant a plate, a spoon, and a cookie cutter. Working over the plate, use the spoon to press the birdseed mixture into the cookie cutter, filling it completely and making sure the seeds are packed in tight. Repeat with the remaining birdseed mixture and other cookie cutters.
– Use a knitting needle or chopstick to poke a small hole through the top of the ornament while it’s still in the cookie cutter; don’t get too close to the edge. It’s best to do this while laying the ornament flat on the plate.
– Place the cookie cutters in the freezer, and chill for at least 1 hour. Then gently press the ornament out of the cookie cutter; to avoid cracking, push your thumbs against the edges of the shape instead of directly on the center. Let the ornament dry at room temperature for at least a day.
– Thread a piece of twine through the hole you made, and tie the top into a knot.
Bon appétit, birds!