Bird Feeder without peanut butter (How to make suet cake)
We have been doing lots of activities to help us observe winter wildlife in our garden. This has included getting ready for the Big Garden Bird Watch. In this post we will look at a way to make a homemade bird feeder of Suet Cakes (without using peanut butter). This is a great alternative to homemade pinecone birdfeeders, especially for people with peanut butter or nut allergies. Typically, fat cakes are made with suet (beef/mutton fat) or lard, but if you would like to make a vegetarian version you can use vegetable shortening (solid vegetable fat) such as Crisco or Trex.
Towards the end of winter and the start of spring, there tends to little food left for birds. This is particularly true in built up areas such as cities and the suburbs. A birdfeeder is a great way to help birds to get through the winter and to attract birds so that children can see them up close. In this way, children can begin to observe and discuss the behaviour of birds, what they need to live, as well as the changes in the seasons. It can also open up all sorts of discussions about migration, where birds live, loss of habitat and more, depending on the children’s ages.
What you need to make a birdfeeder without peanut butter (suet cake)
- Lard, suet or vegetable shortening
- Birdseed (Check for nuts if nut allergy is an issue)
- Sunflower Seeds
- Grated Cheese, raisins
- Leftovers such as oats, bread, cake crumbs
- Old yogurt pots or silicone baby food freezer container
- Pieces of string, twine or jute
How to make a bird feeder without peanut butter (suet cake)
First, melt the fat a little bit to soften it if it is cold and hard. You will need to mix approximately 1 part fat with 2 parts of the dry mixture. That means for every cup of fat you will need approximately two cups of everything else. You can include things like oats, bread and cake crumbs, grated cheese and raisins, and of course, birdseed. You don’t need to include all the items listed above– they are just options. Combine the ingredients together in a bowl and mix them together with your hands. Mixing and combining this can be a lovely sensory experience for children. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones so that you can stop adding the dry ingredients if it starts to become crumbly.
Make holes in the bottom of each yogurt pot and then thread string through and tie some knots. Then fill the pots, packing them with the mixture. If you use silicone food pots, you can place one end of the string in the pot then pack the mixture into the container. Put the pots in the fridge to cool until they become hard or until you are ready to place them outside. You can freeze some until they are ready to use. When you are ready to use them, they can be squeezed out and then hung up on tree branches.
Another way to make them is to have children sculpt them with their hands. They can roll or sculpt them into balls or cakes. These can either be left out like this or use string to tie them up and hang them from a tree.
Questions to ask
- Where have the leaves gone? How have the trees changed?
- What animals have you noticed outside?
- What are the birds doing? Why do you think they are doing that?
What they get from it
Making a bird feeder without peanut butter is another great way for children to experience nature firsthand. This is an easy way to involve children in outdoor learning.
Taking part in birdwatching will give children to opportunity to develop skills observation skills, patience and attention.
It is also an opportunity for children to the following: read (bird books, information sheets); write (record observations and data); collect and record data (tally charts, pictographs or bar charts).
In the winter, the weather can make it more challenging to get children outside. Making bird feeders without peanut butter is a great way to get young children learning outside the classroom in colder weather. It provides an opportunity to get children thinking about animals– what they need to live and where they live (habitat). They can also observe the world around them and see how the environment changes during the winter months.
According to Dr. Malone (2014), a review of worldwide research shows that outdoor learning leads to many benefits to children’s learning and wellbeing. Children who have learning experiences outside the classroom achieve better on tests, achieve higher results in knowledge and skills acquisition and show improved confidence and self-esteem. They also have better motor skills and physical fitness, show increased leadership qualities and environmental responsibility. Further, they have improved social competence, attention, self-esteem and mental health. Outdoor learning has also been found to support learning in maths and science and the use of creative and critical thinking skills (Waliczek, T.M., Logan, P. & Zajicek, J.M., 2003).
Take it further
See my other post on making pinecone birdfeeders with children. You may want to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch or other organised bird watching activities. Get children to record their observations, including make tally charts or other data graphs.
You may want to see some other posts on outdoor learning in preschool and early years. This includes my post on mud kitchens, music wall, reading tree, shapes with sticks, autumn learning activities, chalk clock, rock water painting or n’ice flower surprise.
K. A. Malone (2008). Every experience matters: An evidence based research report on the role of learning outside the classroom for children’s whole development from birth to eighteen years. Farming and Countryside Education (FACE). Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karen_Malone3/publication/265231721_every_experience_matters_An_evidence_based_research_report_on_the_role_of_learning_outside_the_classroom_for_children’s_whole_development_from_birth_to_eighteen_years/links/54414e170cf2a6a049a5704f/every-experience-matters-An-evidence-based-research-report-on-the-role-of-learning-outside-the-classroom-for-childrens-whole-development-from-birth-to-eighteen-years.pdf [Accessed 15 November 2019]
Waliczek, T.M., Logan, P. & Zajicek, J.M. (2003). Exploring the Impact of Outdoor Environmental Activities on Children Using a Qualitative Text Data Analysis System. HortTechnology 13(4), 684-688.