My granddaughter, Willow, is only a month old, so it’s a bit too soon to be buying her binos and a field guide. Still, I’m looking forward to our first adventures outside, watching her joy as she discovers grass and flowers and ladybugs and, yes, birds. I hope she’ll be as fascinated with God’s creation as I am.
Since I hope to create a budding birder, I want to make sure I go about this in the right way. You can’t force a kid to love nature. So I’m already reading articles and talking to birding parents and grandparents about what works and what I should avoid.
Other advice was not so intuitive, but was based on each author’s personal experience.
The best of the bunch was an article written by Ted Floyd, editor of Birding magazine, and published on the ABA blog. His most important piece of advice? “Start ’em young.” What does he mean by “young”?
He started his kids birding at birth! I highly recommend reading his post—it’s both informative and very entertaining.
Willow arrived five weeks early, so she spent her first three weeks in the NICU. As first-time grandparents, we eagerly drove from Colorado to western Washington to help out (and get some cuddle time). Unfortunately, we had leave for home shortly after she was finally released from the hospital, so her birding debut will have to wait until September, when we visit again.
Looking for more advice, I checked out the birding blog 10,000 Birds, where I found a post by James on “Plugging Kids into Birding.” He lists ten tips that look very promising; I intend to try them all. (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a very similar list.)
James points out the importance of letting a child pursue the birds in their own way. He writes,
FOLLOW YOUR KIDS. And not the other way round. Kids often like to learn in their own ways. Whilst you might be focused on trying to teach your child the finer aspects of bird identification, your child might simply enjoy watching bird behaviors or drawing birds.
Being an avid reader, I particularly liked tip #2: Reading. My parents read to me when I was young, we read to our kids, and our son-in-law has already started reading Peter Rabbit to his infant daughter. I’m going to make sure we include lots of books on birds (and other nature-related topics) when we mail her birthday and Christmas boxes. I’ll be sharing about our favorites in future posts.
Hopefully, Willow will grow up to embrace nature, learning to be a responsible steward as she delights in the birds, rocks, and plants that make this world such a beautiful and interesting place. But I won’t make a huge deal (maybe just a little bitty deal?) if she prefers fashion or marketing or history or whatever else might catch her interest. At least I know I’ll love her just the same.