absolutely love winter activities for young children, especially outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers be active three or more hours daily, or about 15 minutes every hour they are awake. The recommendation for elementary and middle school children is 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Depending on where you live, it is important to bundle up your young children appropriately in winter clothing — coats, hats, thin layers, etc. — as well as stay indoors when the temperatures are very low or there is a severe wind chill. This is why it is so important for young children to run, walk and have free play in their own backyards and neighborhoods when the winter weather and temperatures allow. How fun and refreshing it is for early childhood classes to be able to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine on pretty, weather-appropriate days.

This weekend, from Feb. 17 through 20, I want to invite you to join “The Great Backyard Bird Count.” You can go online and simply type in “Great Backyard Bird Count” and it will come up. This free activity, that will help broaden your understanding of bird populations, is held all over the world. The Great Backyard Bird Count’s website provides very clear instructions on how to participate:

• Step 1: Decide where you will watch birds.

• Step 2: Watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once every four days from Feb. 17 to 20.

• Step 3: Identify all the birds you see with your choice of a bird guide. Suggestions are to take pictures of the birds, jot down descriptions of the birds you see, then use a bird guide on how to identify the different birds.

This activity can be done alone or with other people. When my son was young, living in Daphne, Alabama, he would do the Great Backyard Bird Count with his grandfather, the late Frank Jones Sr. who lived in Opelika. He would count the birds he would see in South Alabama, and his grandfather would count the different birds he would see in Opelika. It was truly a great intergenerational project in which my son and his grandfather worked together and shared their results. Both beginning and seasoned bird watchers can participate from their home, backyard or anywhere in the world. The checklists that are submitted during the event help researchers at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, how to protect them and the environment we share.

Infants and toddlers are very observant of their surroundings. Put up a bird-feeder outside a window in your home so that your child can watch the birds fly back and forth.

I have thrown out breadcrumbs, stepped back and observed with my class of young children the different birds that come up and feed.

Senior adults in facilities or in their homes can participate in the Greater Backyard Bird Count as well. Many senior facilities hang bird feeders year round outside the windows of bedridden patients’ rooms. Observing and counting the different birds keeps their minds active and engaged.

Also, young children love to go on nature walks and on scavenger hunts for different nature items they find each season. Stress to the young nature hunters not to eat or put any of their finds into their mouths. In the winter, they can look for leaves and seeds, or look at buds on trees that are still encased and growing until springtime. Different colors of grass, berries and slices of bark can also be found on the ground after winter winds. Parents, you will be so surprised at all the different items you and your child will find. They get so excited to show you the different items they have found. 

Ask them about the color, shape, texture, etc. of these items they find on their nature hunts. This is good for language development.

As an early childhood teacher, I keep bubbles at my fingertips year round. In cool, winter temperatures, blowing bubbles is a young child’s favorite activity to do. The bubbles seem to hold together and freeze a little bit.

After bird watching this week, or going on winter nature hunts, why not enjoy a warm s’more treat and a warm cup of cocoa? This is a great way to celebrate warm family togetherness in the winter.

I hope you have a wonderful week, and happy bird watching.

Matthew 6:26 — “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet their Heavenly Father feeds them.”

Beth Pinyerd,