Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 as a day of environmental awareness at schools, colleges, universities and community-based organizations throughout United States. It has grown, thanks to Earthday.org, into an annual event recognized in 192 countries and is, in my opinion, one of the best opportunities to engage young children in conversation about conservation and protecting this world on which we live. As parents, we’re often looking for those “teachable moments,” and Earth Day presents us with an easy 24 hours of them.
Our youngest daughter’s daycare is going to conserve electricity by turning off the lights for an hour today, and the kids all brought in recyclable items from home that will be used in an art project. Our oldest daughter also wanted a way to give back to Mother Earth. She and I talked about finally getting our kitchen composter up and running which will be a real boon when it comes time to plant our garden this spring. But we also decided that this Earth Day we wanted to do something for the critters living in and around our yard, inviting in more birds to help us naturally control pests and to give them safe places to raise their chicks.
So today, we’re taking a little break from the recipes and sharing a simple craft that you can do on Earth Day or any day: decorating and hanging wooden birdhouses.
Last year we put out some wren houses and were thrilled to have a family of wrens move in within days. This year we bought some more birdhouses that are perfect for those feathered friends that make frequent visits to our yard. We purchased the Woodlink Garden Wren and Chickadee Bird Houses from Amazon that are easy to decorate with either craft paint or permanent paint pens or markers, and are equally easy to clean (you’ll want to do this after nesting season is over).
You could stop by your local home and garden center and choose just about any brand, but look for ones that are designed to be hung outdoors, have nesting boxes that are the right size for whatever birds you are trying to attract, and have ventilated enclosures that can be opened and cleaned at the end of the season. If you want to attract wrens, don’t hang your birdhouses too close to one another — wrens are territorial and the dominant bird will chase off the competition, build several nests in the available boxes, and only use one nest for raising chicks (but the female gets to choose which one of the nests she likes…how cool is that!). Be sure to hang your birdhouses several feet off the ground and near bushes or other cover so that predatory birds or other animals don’t raid the nests, and the wrens have someplace to hide if predators come around.
And if you get really hungry making your birdhouses and you’re just itching for a thematically-appropriate recipe, try our Cold Soba Noodle Nests with Dipping Sauce or raw Kale Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Raisins and Toasted Walnuts (you’ll waste very little electricity making it…great for Earth Day!).
Have fun with this craft, and while you’re at it, talk to your little ones about all the cool things birds do for us, from keeping mosquitos and other varmints in check, to pollinating crops, to spreading seeds, to just generally being fun little neighbors with lovely voices.
Earth Day Birdhouses
“Ingredients” (aka, what you’ll need):
Permanent paint pens (like these Elmer’s Painters Opaque Paint Markers, or Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers) or outdoor-rated paint
Smocks or aprons
Some way to hang your birdhouses (i.e., from a shepherd’s hook or with wood screws)
Spread out the newspaper, put a smock on your little one(s), open the paint or markers, and let them have at it! Allow the paint on your birdhouses to dry before hanging them.
The designs will eventually fade and weather, but believe me, the birds won’t mind. (If you do, you could always spray on a clear acrylic sealant, but the CFCs in those aerosol cans just don’t seem too earth-friendly to me.) Your little ones will be proud of their handiwork and you’ll be making new feathered friends while doing something good for nature.
Kid rating: this is a five-star craft. Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 actually fought over which one of their houses the birds would like best, but I reminded them that we’d be hanging them in different places and if we’re lucky, birds will move in to both. Easy craft, easy clean-up, and a summer’s worth of fun watching and listening to our new warbling neighbors.
Parent rating: five stars from mom, too! Designs can be as easy or involved as your kids want to get. I love seeing what the Stout Sprouts come up with, and love talking with them about the feathered friends who make these birdhouses their homes.