Birds, Books and Learning Through Play at Home

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

Exploring Birds

Depending upon the interests and age of your child depends upon what things you might add into a story learning sack. Story sacks, baskets, props, whatever you would like to call them are a great way to spark an interest and explore so many other learning opportunities. Floss has a keen interest in ornithology – the study of birds. Reading a book and then having toys, games and ideas to build on is a way that many children love to learn.

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birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

We’re lucky to have these gorgeous bird figures, they’re actually from a beautifully hand craved puzzle that can lay flat or stand up in part of a tree. You can then use the birds on their own like we have here. If you have a printer you could print off pictures of birds to use instead.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

What I add with books are based on what my daughter’s current interests are. I tend to incorporate these elements to expand on a general theme – in this case birds. So I’ve set up for Floss a number matching/ fine motor skills activity where she uses the tweezers to feed the birds the right amount of seeds that correlate to that number. If you don’t have any bird figures then just print or draw pictures (children don’t care about your artist skills). I like adding in a piece of scenery such as the tree to support the understanding of where lots of birds live.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

Feed the Birds Game

As I thought, Floss was very much interested in the numbers. We played a little game of turning over a sandpaper number card and then picking up the right amount of seeds. Now named Feed the Birds! You could use anything small – we used our Grapat Mandala pieces to feed a chosen bird. Tweezers are a great way to extend the game and add in some fine motor skills. We named the birds as we went (some we tried to do the birdsong for – this is not a strength of mine!!). Don’t worry if you haven’t got tweezers, use a spoon.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

Further Maths

There are lots of ways of adapting the same bird/ seed theme to cover other maths concepts that your child might be working on. It really is learning through play. For example if your child is working on subtraction you could have 7 birds in a tree and 3 fly away – how many left? You have 12 seeds that need to be shared between 3 birds – how many seeds do they get each? Each bird gets double the amount of food today – how much food does each bird get? The most important thing is that there are objects available to help your child to visual their maths and aid in solving problems.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

I did add a little challenge for Floss in the bird feeding game we played. I put 3 seed in for the number 2 to see what she would do. Floss said, erm Mommy you haven’t got that quite right shall I help you. So cute! I asked her to tell me where I’d gone wrong and how to fix it. This is a really good way for children to strengthen their understanding of something by being able to articulate their though process to someone else. It can be easier to know something isn’t quite right, but to be able to explain why is a higher level skill and involves specific language. Floss told me there were too many and we needed to take one away. Lots of maths that all started from a book.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters


Floss is also fascinated with letters too, so even though she can’t read we’ll explore the letters of the word bird and think about other things that begin with ‘b’. If phonics is something you are learning at home together then you can pick the area you are looking at to focus on. It could be the ‘ir’ sound. How many other ‘ir’ words can you make? Can they write a short sentence about 2 of the birds in the book. If you’d like some ideas on supporting your child with phonics do check out my phonics blog posts here.

Fiction and Non-Fiction Bird Books

When exploring one book I like to pick others that will compliment and we can enjoy during the day. This time we had a fiction (The Go-Away Bird) and a non-fiction. The Go-Away Bird is by the amazing Julia Donaldson and a great rhyming book. I think it’s good to have a mix of both fiction and non-fiction books. 199 Birds is brilliant and you could use that to spot matches in the original book you used. It’s also a sturdy board book, so great for taking outside in the garden to explore and suitable for toddlers.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

Books are such a great starting point. From one book you can get so much more. If you’re wanting to help your children with their learning at home you can do it this way and focus on what they need through books.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

Child Led Learning at Home

Once we’d played feed the birds Floss then decided to do some colour matching with the bowls with each bird ‘in charge’ of a bowl! Don’t forget to go with what they’re interested in. You may have planned an activity, but children are very inventive and find their own ways of learning and consolidating their knowledge. Go with it and have fun together.

birds - home learning - maths - phonics -learning through play - play matters

If you’re looking for bird images we love the watercolour printables from Becca – Fiddlesticks Education ( BUSYBUSYLEARNING discount). You can check out these garden birds plus other bird collections from around the world here.

You might also like to sign up to the newsletter and get access to the member area where you can download these bird flashcards below for free. They’re super simple to turn into Montessori three part cards by printing two copies.

The Secret Life of Birds

If you’re looking for topic books to study birds The Secret Life of Birds really caught our eye.

It’s a beautiful non-fiction text. Some children prefer fiction. My daughter is one of those. For a non-fiction book to catch her eye there needs to be something special about it, something that piques her interest.

The Secret Life of Birds certainly does this. Although a non-fiction book there is a narrator to this book – Speedy the swift. This was the element that gripped my daughter. She has a wonderful imagination and often wants to ‘be’ one of the characters in a story. So to be a character in a non-fiction text really appealed to her. Moria Butterfield’s versatility at writing fiction and non-fiction shines through as she weaves her story magic alongside knowledge.

Speedy introduces us to the exceptional and wonderful world of birds. The layout of the text and balance of images to text is ideal for newly independent readers of around 6/7 years plus. Vivian Mineker’s illustrations very much enhance the reader’s experience and increases their developing understanding of Moira’s words.

There are some lovely sections on birds around the world and stories about birds. My daughter particularly loved Why the Kookaburra Laughs and I found the section on how birds navigate by magnets excellent. We both enjoyed the record breaking birds section. A great bird book that we’d recommend to homes, libraries and schools.

Thank you to Quarto for kindly sending a copy for review.

Discount Codes and Links

Fiddlesticks.Education – BUSYBUSYLEARNING

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