By Charlotte Mellor
With spring finally here and new baby animals being born every day, I thought this would be a good time to work with Scarlett and an animal to help her further understand what a bird is. Last year we visited Nuzzlets therapy farm and that allowed Scarlett to explore a whole plethora of animals, so this spring time I wanted to re-visit the concept animals and go into greater detail with Scarlett about the concept of a bird.
So to do this we did a number of activities which centred around birds:
- Bird sounds
- Bird songs
- Bird stories
- Bird based sensory tray
- Visit to a bird of prey centre
Scarlett is not only blind but has some very complex additional needs focusing around social, communication and learning, so in order to create a rounded concept for Scarlett that she can start to understand it is very important to take a multi-sensory approach.
So what did we do?!
- Bird sounds – Where we live is close to lots of trees and lots of lovely bird songs, I have noticed that Scarlett has taken notice of these sounds in the past so I just continued to expose her to them and gave her the language of the sound. I also used recordings of a variety of bird sounds that can easily be accessed from YouTube to demonstrate the vast variety of bird songs.
- Bird songs – Working around a medium that Scarlett enjoys, music, I accessed lots of songs/nursery rhymes from YouTube that focused around birds. As Scarlett is a lover of song and rhyme I found this was an effective way to make birds fun and interesting. She has excellent musical memory and processes songs and rhymes very well, so I used this tool to basically open up a discussion/interaction that Scarlett would happily get involved with around all things bird!
- Bird Stories – Scarlett has a very short attention span and demonstrates very little interest in being read to or audio books, she does however pay much more attention when she is included in the story, therefore I tend to make up most of the tales I tell her myself, which are very short, involve her, myself and her brother Sonny, but again it is just another way to discuss birds with her in a fun and meaningful way that she is willing to absorb.
- Bird based sensory tray – This was a little craft activity I did at home which looked at some of the variety of elements that can be associated with birds:
What you need:
- Silver tray
- Bird feed, variety of sizes shapes and smells
- Egg shells washed out
- Bits of leaves, trees, grass anything you can forage from the garden
- Some little feather chicks
- Recordable sound buttons
What I did:
Using the tray I used the bird feed to create the ‘all things bird’ base, then using the raffia and items foraged from the garden I constructed a nest, this was really easy to do, involved lots of natural textures and is a great way to practise fine motor skills with your child such as weaving.
Go with your child to the garden and, dependant on their level of understanding, talk to them about what things a bird may collect and use to construct their nest and once you have all the materials you can build away! With Scarlett I just encouraged her to use her hands to feel the original materials and then allowed her to feel the shape of the nest as it was being created.
The bird seeds are great to feel, very subtle in changes of size but a great way to include some more ‘all things bird’ in your sensory tray.
Feathers are a great inclusion, I just used some craft ones that I had at home, but if you can get your hands on real-life bird feathers then you can really make the sensory experience interesting.
Egg shells, also offer a very different texture and are a great addition to the nest and I added some baby Easter chicks to the egg and talked to Scarlett about where birds come from. Dependant on your child’s level of understanding you can also talk about the process of hatching and laying and perhaps team it with a visit to some newly born spring chicks!
I used the recordable buttons to capture some real life bird songs to be used within the sensory tray to ensure that there was a multi-sensory reinforcement of what I was aiming to explain to Scarlett.