When I was teaching kindergarten in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in the state of Missouri, one of my favorite activities was taking my class to Little Creek Nature Area, a nature preserve owned and operated by the school district. Kindergarten students had the opportunity to visit Little Creek multiple times a year and my favorite visit was the winter one where we learned about winter birds. The Little Creek teachers taught us that some birds stay in Missouri throughout the year. We were shown beautiful photographs of these birds so we could identify them when we went bird watching. Each child made a pair of binoculars, two bird feeders (one to put in a tree at Little Creek and another to take home). The children armed with their binoculars and new bird watching knowledge were in awe when they went bird watching by peering out the huge observation window. With quiet anticipation we watched red feathered Cardinals, brown Wrens and little Black Capped Chickadees fly from tree to tree and feast on the seed filled pine cone feeders we had prepared. The visit ended with a story in front of the fireplace. We sipped hot cocoa topped with marshmallows and munched on homemade Cardinal Cookies while the teacher read winter stories.
I recently attempted to replicate some of the activities my students enjoyed so my three-year old daughter could experience some of the Little Creek winter magic. The following is a description of the activities.
Pine Cone Bird Feeders– Lillian enjoyed this popular winter activity that I remember from my childhood. We collected pine cones in the park, covered them lightly with peanut butter and then rolled them in bird seed. We attached a red piece of yarn to the top and they were ready to hang on the little tree outside our window.
BinocularsMade out of two toilet paper rolls, yarn and decorated with stickers, Lillian loves her bird watching binoculars! I stapled the toilet paper rolls together and attached yarn to one side so she could wear them around her neck. We decorated our binoculars with stickers but we could have used crayons.
Cardinal Cookies- Nana joined in the fun by helping us make Cardinal Cookies! Named for the beautiful red bird who loves sunflower seeds, this easy drop cookie has a peanut butter base and is rolled in sunflower seeds prior to baking. My little one loved making the cookies but enjoyed eating them even more!
My Book of Birds Inspired by my trips to Little Creek my dad and I created this mini book years ago for my kindergarten students. It focuses on counting along with bird identification and contains beautiful illustrations drawn by my dad! We want to share our book with you! Download the reproducible book for free by clicking on this link. My Book of Birds
Read Aloud Books Featuring Birds– One of my favorite winter picture books is Lois Ehlert’s “Snowballs.” This book introduces the reader to a snow family complete with a snow dog and cat! Ms. Ehlert creates beautiful snow figure collages filled with items birds and squirrels would find yummy to eat during the cold winter weather.
The number of feathered friends to visit our bird feeder was limited but we enjoyed the few wrens that ventured to our little tree. We look forward to repeating this activity next year and hope the wrens come back and bring their friends to our home for a winter feast!
My three year old daughter loves puppies and like many children her age she is obsessed with anything and everything Paw Patrol. If you have a preschooler in your life you probably know Ryder and his team of search and rescue pups that protect the residents of Adventure Bay. What started out as an animated series has grown into a franchise filled with a collection of toys and merchandise from books and games to plastic plates and underwear! And to bring the pups from Paw Patrol directly to boys and girls in cities across the world there are currently two touring live stage shows.
Now why did I cry at the show? Well, you might think I cried because spending two hours in a theater filled with preschoolers on a Saturday night isn’t exactly on my bucket list. Or that I cried because my family paid $376.50 for five center aisle seats to see Paw Patrol Live! (this included a discount my friend got us from Citi Bank) My husband felt like crying when he found out he was going to spend a Saturday night seeing Paw Patrol Live while the St. Louis Blues were playing in the arena right next to the theater! But the tickets were a Christmas gift from Nana and we all piled into the mini van and willingly went to the show because it was a dream come true for our sweet little Lillian.
I shed a few tears when the curtain opened and the music started playing and a huge smile appeared on my daughter’s face. Imagine her excitement seeing the beloved characters she reads about in books, sees animated on the screen and loves on toys and puzzles, magically come to life on the stage right in front of her! When Ryder introduced each of the pups on the Paw Patrol team she clapped her hands and sang along to the theme song. I enjoyed watching my daughter more than the show! I delighted in seeing my parents smile sweetly at their little granddaughter, knowing they had made a little girl’s dream come true! And the enthusiasm continued until the actors took their final curtain call and the lights came on.
Seeing the joy on my daughter’s face and experiencing this event with my husband and my parents certainly brought me joy. But what truly brought tears to my eyes is when I suddenly realized that my parents, my husband and I wouldn’t be sitting in this theater, at this particular moment, seeing this specific show, if there was no Lillian. My mind rushed through all of the wonderful things we have done together and all of the experiences we will enjoy in the future because of the little girl sitting next to me. I looked around the theater and every adult was accompanied by at least one little person between the ages of 2-6! I felt honored to be a member of this elite group. Membership I feel privileged to have received and that I will never take for granted.
For a brief moment I went to a dark place and I thought about a life without Lillian. It isn’t something I can ever imagine now but at one time prepared for. During our final IVF cycle (our fourth and final cycle) my husband and I had to accept the statistics and come to peace with the fact that we may never have a child of our own. I thought of the women who continue the fertility struggle and those who may be dreaming of sitting in my seat at the theater at this very moment. My husband and I would have had a blessed life no matter what the outcome but it wouldn’t have been this life. We may have adopted a child or fostered a child but we wouldn’t have this child. We wouldn’t have Lillian and we wouldn’t be sitting together as a family at the Peabody Opera House on this January evening enjoying a performance of Paw Patrol Live.