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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

9 Reasons Why Bird-watching Benefits Children

Photo by kleinmoni59 (pixabay)

Nine Reasons Why Bird-Watching Benefits Children

Children are not exactly known for their lengthy attention spans or ability to be still and quiet. But recently, I thought of a good way to help kids work on these skills and get some fresh air, too. February was National Bird Feeding Month, and while the girls and I were filling our feeders, I started thinking about how bird-watching is a great family activity. There are a lot of benefits to bird-watching as a hobby, especially for children. I can think of at least nine reasons to get the kids outside with a pair of binoculars.

1. It helps children become more familiar with and fond of nature.

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The best way for children to develop an affinity for nature is for children to be out in nature. Bird-watching requires paying attention to the smells, sights, and sounds of nature, including each bird's markings and sounds and how they behave. It's a chance to improve their focus and their sensory processing abilities. Once they spend time watching the birds, they might also decide that they have a favorite type that they'd like to focus on feeding.

2. It gets children active by visiting parks and preserves in search of birds.

Photo by _Alicja_ (pixabay)

The more time children spending engaged in outdoor pursuits, the more likely it is that they'll continue to make this a habit as they grow older. Getting children out in the backyard, climbing a mountain in a nearby state park, or standing quietly in the dunes watching the birds fly over the sea means they are moving and experiencing nature, and time outdoors directly correlates with time spent being physically active; children who spend time outdoors are less likely to struggle with obesity.

3. It helps children become more observant of the world around them.

Photo by JDmcginley (pixabay)

Did you know there are around 10,500 individual species of birds in the world? Some birds are easily identified, like cardinals. However, other species birds strongly resemble each other and are difficult to identify. Sometimes, something as small as a very light eye ring is all that distinguishes one species from another. Bird-watchers have to learn to identify myriad characteristics, including colors, markings, shapes, sizes, behaviors, and calls. Adding to the complexity, some birds change colors depending on the season or their age. Good bird-watchers have to focus on details and be able to connect what they see in their field guides with what they see in nature. The focus required to identify birds can help children become more observant of all the things going on in the world around them.

4. It can cultivate an interest in biology and science.

Photo by Efraimstochter (pixabay)

The field of bird study is called ornithology. Learning about birds and becoming amateur ornithologists can spark an interest in the larger field of biology. Bird-watching allows children to observe and ask questions about the behaviors, habits, life span, and diet of the birds they are watching. Their observations and questions can lead to research and even following the scientific method to pose a hypothesis, perform research or experiments, and present the results to their families and fellow bird-watchers.

5. It can build confidence as children learn to listen for and identify birds.

Photo by debowscyfoto (pixabay)

Building competence is key to building confidence. Bird-watching allows children to build competence in a variety of areas. They learn to use research materials to find the information they want. They learn how to quietly be in nature so that they can see exciting things. And they learn how to identify birds and how to make observations about the behavior of birds. As they get better at identifying birds, their confidence will grow. And the skills they're building while bird-watching can help them in the classroom, too, which should also help them feel more competent and confident.

6. It develops language skills as they learn to describe birds.

Photo by mohamed_hassan (pixabay)

Most activities have specialized vocabularies, and bird-watching is no different. Your children will pick up some of the language of ornithology, but they'll also be able to develop their descriptive abilities as they tell you about the birds they see.

7. It can help a child develop their own identity.

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Pursuing hobbies improves children's self-esteem and can help them forge their own independent identity. Children need help finding activities and experiences that can help them grow a strong sense of self, and one of these activities could be bird-watching. Encourage your kids to explore this and other hobbies to help them form a stronger sense of who they are.

8. It can help children form a community.

Photo by MaBraS (pixabay)

Studies have shown that time in nature increases individual happiness, but it also strengthens connections and bonds between people experiencing nature together. Families and children can meet other bird-watchers or even join online or in-person birdwatching groups. Joining a local group will allow your children to share their knowledge with other people who have the same interest they do.

9. It helps kids understand their local ecosystem.

Photo by RondellMelling (pixabay)

Children typically are drawn to the exotic animals they see in animated movies or in their textbooks, and they can easily overlook the wide variety of life that's literally in their backyard. Paying attention to the birds around them can help them learn more about their local ecosystem and how it changes from season to season. Why are some birds only around at certain times of year? Which birds tend to appear near which types of plants? The answers can help kids learn a lot about the local habitat.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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