Written by Elaine McAllister, Author and Friend of Legacy Coalition
When my elderly mother lived in a retirement home, I brought a flowering plant to hang just outside her window. It was bright and colorful. I knew she would enjoy it that Spring, but never imagined a sweet little bird would as well.
Sheltered in among the blooms and foliage, a nest was perfectly constructed; situated as if to give my mom a front-row seat for what was to come.
Mama’s room soon became the most popular room in the hallway as visitors stopped in daily for a peek. Nursing staff and fellow residents would tip-toe to my mom’s window for a glimpse of the sweet production on the other side of that window pane. Their visits and conversations were a wonderful distraction for my mom at the time and a sweet memory that remains years later. There’s something so beautiful and magical about witnessing God’s creation – up close and personal.
I continued to care for my mother throughout that season and carefully watered the plant so it provided shelter for the tiny eggs which appeared soon after the nest was built. Mama kept track of the progress every day and eventually enjoyed seeing tiny birds where the silent eggs once were. They were lovingly cared for until it was time for them to fly away. Their humble abode, vacated by its unexpected guests, continued to brighten Mama’s corner until the seasons changed and summer’s heat got the best of it.
Seasons come and go. As I write this, wintertime is officially upon us. Depending upon where we live, temperature and precipitation can be brutal. It’s not the season for nest-building and egg-hatching, yet every season is a perfect one for storytelling.
As one who is passionate about both grandparenting and generational storytelling, let me suggest a simple way to combine the two. Grandchildren love ‘hands-on’ activities, hearing stories, and learning new things. They crave interaction, and blessings await those grandparents who intentionally engage their grandchildren.
This activity is well-suited whether your grandkids are toddlers or teens, however, more supervision is needed for the little ones. My teen grandkids haven’t outgrown this wintertime project. I doubt they will. It reminds them of their great grandma’s bird-watching experience and teaches the younger ones the importance of caring for our fine feathered friends.
Here’s the plan! Gather your grandkids along with these simple items:
- A jar of inexpensive peanut butter
- A bag of bird seed
- A few empty toilet paper rolls
- A paper plate and a plastic knife for each child
Let the fun begin:
- Cover the bottom of each paper plate with bird seed.
- Using a plastic knife, have your grandkids spread peanut butter on a toilet paper roll.
- Gently roll each sticky roll into the bird seed – it’ll stick to the peanut butter quite well.
- If it’s cold outside…wash your hands and bundle up before delivering the tasty treats.
- Carefully carry the ‘bird feeder’ outside and find the perfect spot for it.
- Slip it over the end of a small branch (or put a ribbon through the roll for hanging).
- Clean up the mess.
- Warm up the kids with some hot chocolate….and wait!
- Watch as birds fly in to enjoy their wintertime feast.
- Can your grandkids identify the types of birds that come to visit?
- Refer to a bird-watching book or the internet to learn about birds.
- Encourage your grandkids to capture a picture of their mid-winter visitors.
- Younger grandkids may want to draw and color a picture of the birds.
This is a popular “do-over” activity your grandkids will want to do over and over again. Your neighborhood birds will thank you. Due to the fact that bird seed may get into your jar of peanut butter, I suggest you label it “For The Birds” and keep it in the garage with the bird seed! It’s no longer good for human consumption but can be kept for future fun with your grandkids.
You’ll find this activity (along with 100 others) in Celebrate Grandparenting: 101 Ideas to Intentionally Connect with Your Grands by Elaine McAllister.
Elaine McAllister is a friend of Legacy Coalition who lives in Central Kansas with her husband, Jim. An award-winning, multi-genre author, speaker, and frequent contributor to magazines, Elaine McAllister is a graduate of Central Christian College of Kansas, and enjoys spending time with two grown children and grandchildren (ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old). You may contact her at BFFGramma@gmail.com or find her online at elainemcallister.com.
Editor’s Note: February 16-19, 2024 is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Check out all the details at birdcount.org. I have done this with my grandkids and they love it!