It is easy in the winter when the weather becomes cold and snowy to want to stay inside and hibernate like some of the animals do. However, winter should not be hibernation time for the family; in fact winter is the perfect time for the family to rally together and help those wild animals who do not hibernate and have to survive through the winter.
When my daughters were growing up, I was always looking for family activities for us to do together especially during the cold, snowy winter months when it was really easy for our whole family to become couch potatoes — not a pretty sight.
I have always loved animals and passed that love for animals on to my children, so when my kids would look out the window during those blizzard days and be sincerely worried about the wild animals that lived outdoors, I knew it was a learning opportunity for my girls. My daughters were always really concerned as to how the wild animals would survive and although I would explain to my kids that wild animals do adapt so that they can survive outdoor living, I would also ask the question to my daughters, “How can we help those wild animals?” It was fun coming up with ideas together.
What started out as one idea to help the animals, eventually progressed to multiple ideas on how to help the animals and lo and behold, our yearly winter family activities of helping the wildlife was created without even us realizing it at first.
My family and I have worked on and made many projects that have benefited animals throughout the years; the following animal wildlife projects are some of my favorite winter family activities that we have made together.
Winter Family Activity: Helping Animals #1: Bird Feeder
Our first family winter activity to help animals that we made together was a bird feeder; these bird feeders are a little messy but so much fun and my kids really loved making them. Even as a teacher, I have had my students make the bird feeders and the children love making them. Plus the birds love the feeders equally!
The assembly of the bird feeder is really simple. Start with a pinecone and tie string or yarn around the wider end of the pinecone. Then spread peanut butter generously all over the pinecone using a butter knife and fingers. The last step in the process is to roll the pinecone in bird seed and make sure the entire pinecone is covered.
My daughters and I would make numerous pinecone bird feeders at one time and when we were done, we would throw on our winter gear, head outside and have a great time finding trees and bushes to hang the pinecones on. The birds would come shortly after we hung the pinecones and we watched the wildlife from our home windows.
Winter Family Activity: Helping Animals #2: Wood Refuge House
This is a fun project and does require wood, nails and a hammer so some minimal hammering skills are necessary.
Every winter, my daughters and I made a very simple wooden square box from scraps of wood that we had in our garage. The wood box was placed in our yard along with a small rug or straw placed inside the box; the wood box was used as a refuge for the wild animals on those really cold, wintry days. Many times rabbits would frequent the abode and sometimes even creatures such as squirrels and raccoons would find a resting spot in the wood refuge home.
I typically would assemble the wood box by hammering in nails and then my daughters would add the rug or straw. Some years my daughters even painted the wood refuge box. We had such great fun making the wood box for the animals and even more fun watching the animals going in and coming out of the box.
Winter Family Activity: Helping Animals #3: Salt Block for Deer
Our family has found great pleasure in watching the deer walk through our yard, so every year when winter would start to approach, my daughters and I would go to the large hardware store near our home and purchase a couple salt blocks. We would then come home and decide together where the perfect spot in the yard was to place the salt block. My family would get so excited when deer would approach the salt block to have a taste.
My girls are both in college now; one daughter is majoring in zoology and the other daughter is majoring in education. I truly believe their desire to work with animals and kids came partly from when they were young and we worked on our winter family activities together with helping the animals.
I also believe our family activities of helping animals instilled in my daughters the desire to help others whether they are two legged beings or four legged beings. They both have great respect for life and I honestly think it comes from their experiences we had together in trying to help the outdoor animals!