Pine Cone Bird Feeders

Birds are some of our best teachers—they amaze kids and adults alike with their ability to fly, captivating calls, aptitude as nest builders and remarkable methods for surviving in all four seasons. Noticing the birds, thinking about their needs and caring for our feathered friends is a powerful way for kids to put empathy into action and see how they can make a real difference in their own backyards.

The Guide

Get to know the birds in your outdoor space:

Head outside with kids and look and listen for birds. (Optional: Use cardboard tubes to make DIY binoculars!) The ideal time is early in the morning, but there are many times of day to try. Just try to avoid noon when birds tend to be the least active. Use an app like the Merlin bird identifying app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to find out what kinds of birds you are seeing and hearing in your yard or local green space. Or, visit the Audubon Society site to learn more about birds and find birds in your area.

Promote empathy for bird friends:

Wonder together how the birds around your home are doing. What do they need and want? In the Spring, many birds burn an enormous amount of energy as they build nests and collect food for their babies, and they can really benefit when we put out safe sources of nutrition. How we could leave some bird seed for the birds?

Explore seeds and invite play:

Pour bird seed in a large bowl or bin and invite kids to explore it. Feel it. Bury things in it. Scoop it and let it fall through your fingers.

Wonder how we could leave some bird seed for the birds. If you have lots of squirrels, wonder how you could hang it so that winged friends could reach it, but squirrels couldn’t take it all. Share ideas.

Introduce the pine cones:

Show kids the pine cones. Could these help? Tie some yarn or string to the top of a pine cone so it hangs down. Then, try to add seeds. Harumph, they all fall out! 

Introduce the sticking power of sun butter:

Wonder what would happen if you used sun butter. Experiment with adding sun butter to the pine cone, then rolling it in seeds. Repeat the process to make a bunch of feeders. 

Hang your feeders:

Go for a hike and let your child/kids decide where to hang the feeders. Try to hang one in a spot you can easily observe from inside, if you can. As you play, wonder aloud about what you think birds will do with the feeders and what kind of birds might come. Observe your feeder over time and notice how it changes from day to day or week to week.
Want to make another type of feeder to help feathered friends? Try this activity to turn an orange into a bird feeder!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Considering the needs of other creatures and doing something to meet those needs develops cognitive and compassionate empathy. Listening to the sounds of birds and imitating their songs develops kids' focus and communication skills. Scooping and pouring seeds and rolling pine cones in sunflower butter activates multiple senses. Finally, family projects designed around helping others are wonderful ways to reinforce both family and community values. Hurrah!

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