As schools head back to start a new term parents are always keen to keep a check on their child’s mental health as stress and anxiety does easily build up inside our little ones, however did you know that a fun and easy way to help them with this extra burden at this time of the year is as simple as feeding the wild birds in your garden.
With all the time off school and work in the last year we have had, loads of families have found themselves spending more time in their gardens and outdoor spaces watching and feeding the wild birds, us included and we cant help but think that caring for wild birds really is a fab activity for kids to get involved in, but also see how it can offer so many benefits for all the family with the added bonus of not costing you a lot of money, time or energy.
Over the last year one our greatest joys have been getting the escapism from our homes by taking the family on short walks around our home. Many of us have found this a fab chance to reconnect with our local village life, grow new friendships with neighbours, explore what’s right on our doorstep and discover new parts of local nature we once looked passed.
These walks have been invaluable in reconnecting us all with the slower pace of nature and has been a noticeable reminder to how being in contact with nature really does benefit our mood.
We are blessed here in West Wales to have some stunning woodlands and nature trails to take the kids to. Interestingly in Japan they place so much importance on this that they have a national health programme that was launched back in the eighties called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku as its known there.
Forest bathing has been scientifically proven to improve your health and simply involves you spending more time around trees, not running amongst them or working out, just spending time quietly observing nature near the trees, including all the wild birds.
Aside from the health benefits of breathing in the fresh air, trees emit oils to help them protection themselves from germs and insects and these oils called phytoncides actually help our immune systems. Additionally, it’s been confirmed that forests lower our heart and blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
I know people jest about hug a tree it will cheer you up, but really forest baths have been able to reduce depression and boost energy levels and for us we saw walking in the woods as the perfect way for the kids to escape from technology for a bit at the same time as improving their wellbeing, in fact the grownups enjoyed the de-stressing ability of woodland walks too.
Due to enjoying these walks so much we have since decided to plant a few new trees in our garden last year as we felt we wanted to not only help encourage wildlife to our garden, but we wanted to have more greenery at home.
With this growing love of nature and inspired by the research from University of Exeter it soon saw us taking up a hobby as a family of back garden bird watching and with this the desire for us to see more feathered friends at home saw us try to increase the odds by putting out food for the birds.
The research that the University of Exeter did proved that watching birds near your home is good for your mental health, they found that people living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, many outdoor experts have since come forward explaining how bird watching can help reduce levels of anxiety, depression and stress by keeping your mind calm, active and entertained
School Life can be a struggle for some children, with them finding the daily schedule and expectations difficult, leaving them nervous or feeling overwhelmed about going to school each day.
So, imagine if a simple hobby of feeding birds could bring them a sense of calm, looking forward to returning home from school to check on their outdoor pets in the safe haven of their own outdoor space.
Feeding Birds for children can deliver so many benefits such as: -
Improve Wildlife Knowledge – The educational value to feeding birds is huge as children can learn about what wildlife lives locally and how they can thrive in their own garden, understanding different food likes for each bird species and their different food needs throughout the year. By seeing all these birds, they can learn how they contribute to their gardens insect and weed control as well as help with flower pollination.
Improve Brain Functions - Spain did some in depth research that showed how school children that were raised in greener neighbourhoods had more neutral connections in brain regions which are tied to working memory and attention.
Stimulate Senses – By children getting outside into new scenery it will get their senses going, keeping their mind active or peaceful. Feeding birds and watching them come into your garden to eat can be like a form of meditation having a positive impact on their mental health.
Help Develop Empathy, Compassion and Mindfulness – Feeding the same birds each day, children can watch how they interact with each other, learn their personalities, likes and dislikes, for them it will be taking care of a pet that lives outside their home and this with help build on their emotional skills and improve their perspective.
Increases Exposure to Nature – Feeding birds and watching them eat every day is a lovely way for children to interact with nature and will go a long way to prevent nature deficit disorder which is an increasing worry for parents who feel that their children are spending less time outdoors and that this is potentially contributing to a range of behavioural problems.
Increases Exercise – Walking around the garden watching the birds increases the amount of physical exercise that your child is doing, which will help their body releases chemicals called endorphins, which has been proven to reduces the feelings of stress and raise their mood.
Reduces Boredom – Feeding birds is a great source of entertainment for kids, a fun boredom buster that gives them something to do requiring minimal skill and money or time.
When we decided to feed the birds in our garden, we didn’t want to make mistakes that would hurt our local birds, so chose to play it safe and use prefilled feeders from a trusted source so we used various products from the Henry Bell Wild Bird Care Collection.
With over 20 years’ experience in the bird food industry the Henry Bell Wild Bird Care Collection comprises of over 140 products catering for every type of garden bird and we found them easily to get hold of as they in hundreds of garden centres, pet shops and online.
The Henry Bell essential collection are pre-filled feeders which look good, are affordable and designed to enable wild bird wellbeing. We found them so easy for the kids to unwrap and hang up and so far, have used the ready to feed seed mix, peanut and fat ball feeder and found that they are definitely well loved as we have found them fab at attracting many different birds into our garden.
Additionally, we found the Henry Bell ready to feed collection an easy-to-use option for us, they were nice and quick for the kids to unwrap and hang up. So far, we have used the suet coconut, which are filled with a suet blended with seeds and we have also used the black sunflower seed bell, they cost a few pounds each making them affordable, and we found that by using different food in our garden it attracts different types of birds. We found both these to be nice and sturdy when hanging up so didn’t find it hard to find the perfect spot to place them.
We have thoroughly loved watching all the local birds come to visit our back garden and still the kids are loving learning each of their personalities, what their favourite foods to eat are, and expecting to see certain birds now at different times of the day.
As the children return to school, we think it’s going to be an ideal hobby to slot into their weekday routine. Aside from feeding the wild birds we have installed a cute bird bath and already built and put up nest box ready for the winter months.
It’s been proven that animals have a calming effect on people, and we have to say this has definitely been our experience. We have had fun learning where is best to place the food in your garden, it’s been real trial and error as locally we have a very nervous little blue tit that will only come into eat if we nestle a suet feeder in amongst the leafy plants where he must feel safer eating as he has a good view of other birds feeding nearby.
Aside from the benefits to our children since feeding the wild birds it has given us a greater sense of appreciation of our surroundings and the beauty that lies just a few footsteps outside our back door that previously we had taken for granted. For us grown ups we are looking forward to this small connection with nature restoring our attention and countering our mental fatigue that busy family life brings every time a new school term starts.