Forest Tots Online Week 1: Hungry Birds! – A Nature-Inspired Play Idea for Under 5s

Spring has finally sprung. The trees are in blossom, the birds are nesting, and the days are warm. In that long dark winter, it seemed these days would never arrive. Here at the Great Northern, plans were in place to bring play sessions for under 5s back to the amphitheatre. But alas, these plans are now on hold until safer times. My name is Amanda and I am here to offer weekly suggestions for natural play that you can do with your tot/s during lock down.

With spring in full flow, I am going to suggest a game called Hungry Birds. There are several steps you will need to take before you can play the game, so follow carefully. Oh, and if your tot takes it off in a different direction, simply follow their lead and embrace the fun!

Getting ready

Collect some natural resources to make a nest of any size. These could include twigs, grass, leaves, cones, seed cases, feathers and moss. The collection of these objects can form part of a scavenger hunt in your garden or in a local green space.  Your tot will get a thrill if you make a list and they complete it!

Back home

Put a blanket down in a room or in your garden and place the natural objects down. Your tot/s may want to explore the objects more or you could suggest sorting them. Meanwhile, you will need to find some wool or string and cut it into strands. These will be your worms! Tell your tot/s that in spring the birds build nests for their babies. They start by laying eggs and the nest keeps them cosy and warm until they hatch as chicks. The parents will need to feed the chicks until old enough to leave the nest.

Challenge your tot/s to make a nest from the objects they found. Younger tots may require a little extra support here, so you may need to lead the way. When your tot/s is not looking, hide the lengths of wool around your home or garden. Birds face many challenges when searching for food, so consider placing them under rocks or partly covered by mud, leaves or other objects. Let your child know that chicks also like to eat other foods like fruit and bugs.

Play the Game

Once the nest is built, carefully place a soft toy (preferably a bird) in the centre. Show your tot/s a “worm” cut from the wool. Tell them that there are many more hidden around and they need to feed their chicks these juicy, fat worms. Now play the game and enjoy!

This is such a fun activity and I am sure your tot/s will love it. It has so many teachable moments and opportunities for open-ended play and connection. You or your tot/s can even role play as the parent or the chick to progress the fun if your nest is big enough! I have included a few snaps of when I played it recently with my six-year old, Wilbur. I added a bird-themed picture book to the end of the game, just so I could sneak a little cuddle with him too!

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