The brightly colored cardinal might just be your child's most favorite flying visitor to your yard, so why not incorporate these birds into your everyday activities to teach your child about shapes and colors -- and help her explore her creative side. By the time you're finished crafting, you might just find these lovely birds showing up all over your home!
Encourage real cardinals to flock to your backyard with a homemade birdhouse or feeder. You can make a bird feeder from an empty milk carton -- which is an excellent opportunity to introduce creative recycling to your child, too. Cut a square from one side of the carton, about 2 inches from the bottom -- and then show your child how to decorate the feeder with glue and squares of tissue paper. Help your child pour birdseed into the bird feeder and hang it in the yard. Take pictures of the cardinals that come to dine -- and turn the photos into a cardinal collage together. If you'd like a sturdier birdhouse instead, purchase an unpainted, unadorned wood one. Have your child decorate the birdhouse with non-toxic paints, sponge shapes and stencils before filling it with feed.
Let your little bird lover craft a cardinal to hang on the wall and learn a little about shapes at the same time. You can help your child make a cardinal heart bird by cutting out a construction paper heart for the body, a heart-shaped construction paper beak, heart-shaped wing cutouts and several heart cutouts for the tail. Help your child glue together the individual pieces to create the bird -- and then add two more heart-shaped feet on the bottom of little construction paper legs to complete the bird. You can incorporate other shapes into the activity by cutting out a triangle shape for the beak, oval shapes for the wings and circle-shaped feet instead. You might also help your little one make a little nest for her cardinals from a paper plate. Cut it in half for her, help her glue the rounded edges of the plate together and let her color it brown -- or any color your child likes. Then she can slide the paper birds into the nest! Your child can also make a mobile to hang above her bed. Just make outline and cut out several cardinals in varying sizes from construction paper. Have your child color the birds -- and then help her thread a string through the top of each one. Attach the string to a clothes hanger and help your child cover the hanger with construction paper. Complete the craft by tearing up pieces of green tissue paper together -- and then have your child use it to make hanger look like a tree. Hang the mobile from the ceiling.
Create a cardinal diorama with your child to decorate the kitchen table or his nightstand. Start with a shoebox. Have your child glue green felt to the inside bottom of the box and paint the sides of the box blue. Next, have him make trees for the diorama by painting toilet paper rolls brown -- and gluing strips of tissue paper and construction paper into the top of the rolls. The paper tops will look like plumes coming out of the "trees." Have your child glue a plastic cardinal figurine in the center of each treetop -- and glue a few to the top of the box. You can also help your child make a simple open-sided diorama. Start with a sheet of cardboard. Have him glue a layer of green felt "grass" over it. Then he can glue the toilet paper-roll trees randomly on the grass and place the cardinals anywhere he likes.
Surprise your child with a special kitchen cardinal craft -- a batch of cardinal cookies and a little edible nest for each one. Work together to make sugar cookie dough by having your child help measure, pour and mix the ingredients. Help her roll out the dough. Then let her use cardinal-shaped cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes. When the cookies are baked and cooled, have her decorate them with red icing. To make the nests, have your child mix together chow mein noodles with melted milk chocolate, making sure the chocolate is cooled to a safe temperature before she begins to mix. Have your child spoon the mixture onto wax paper, depress the center to make the nest and place a cardinal cookie in each cooled nest. You can also make cupcakes together -- and have your child top each one with red icing and colored coconut to create a nest. Have her fill the nest with miniature blue marshmallows for cardinal eggs.
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