Black and white image of birds flying off a treeEven in winter, kids can find wildlife to watch. Create an atmosphere that promotes engaged learning. Encourage your kids to ask questions, make predictions, observe the world around them, experiment and make mistakes. In other words, encourage them to be scientists! Here are some great books to get your family started.

Squirrels by Trudi Strain Trueit: Identify specific squirrel species. Explore their behavior, life cycle, mating habits, geographical location, anatomy, enemies, and defenses. (Backyard Safari series) Ages 7-9.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert: This fun story about a family of Snow people is a great jumping off point for collage projects and for creative ways to feed backyard  wildlife. Ages 4-8.

Birds by Kevin Henkes: A little girl observes the colors, shapes, sounds, and movements of the many different birds she sees through her window. Ages 4-8.

For the Birds: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas: Roger Tory Peterson loved observing and drawing birds. He grew up to be an artist, activist, environmentalist and creator of Peterson Field Guides. Ages 8 to adult.

The boy who drew birds : A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies: As a boy, John James Audubon loved to watch birds. There he took a particular interest in peewee flycatchers. While observing these birds, John James became determined to answer a pair of two-thousand-year-old questions: Where do small birds go in the winter, and do they return to the same nest in the spring? Ages 4-8.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter: Before she became a famous primatologist, Jane Goodall was a curious girl who loved observing animals in her yard. Ages 4-8.

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette Cate: A humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Ages 8-12.

Things to Try:

Reading Rockets has a great series called Literacy in the Sciences that gives great ideas to inspire kids and families to observe and explore the world around them.

Outdoor Explorations The simple activities of playing in the backyard or taking a neighborhood walk are perfect opportunities to help your child develop the skills of observing, predicting and investigating.

Recording Observations: Journals and Field Notes Let your child of any age have fun recording what they see outside with writing, drawing, or scribbling in a notebook.

Pinecone bird feeder This easy birdfeeder is fun to make with kids of all ages.

Toilet paper tube binoculars Make observing even more fun with a pair of tp tube binoculars!