Pine Cone Animal Treats

No matter where you live in Halifax, you're never far away from trees and wildlife. Behind our house is a greenbelt filled with trees, and not far away is a park so we are blessed to live in an area abundant with wildlife. The morning after the first big snowfall this year we saw deer tracks going around our house and into our backyard which made us think of our Itsy Bitsy Book Club book,The Snow Knows, with the high stepping deer, however this activity can be done with, or without, snow, any time of year. 

To start, have the children do some research about what animals in your region eat. You can get some nonfiction books about this or just surf the web for ideas. We made pine cone feeders this week, and in the past we've also made no-bake treats and a pretty frozen wreath bird feeder.

You will need pine cones (most craft stores sell these), string or yarn, peanut butter or lard, craft sticks and some coating for the feeders, such as birdseed, nuts and fruit. Put some peanut butter and craft sticks in one bowl, and then mix up some chopped fruit, nuts and seeds for another. Tie a string to the stem of the pine cone before you get started.

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Use the craft sticks to smear the peanut butter or lard all over the pine cones, pushing it into all the nooks and crannies. The more on it, the more coating will stick to it. Both Miss M (5yo) and Mr M (3yo) were able to do this independently; the hardest part was making sure they didn't lick the treats from their fingers or the pine cone!

Once it is coated to the children's satisfaction, roll it all around in the other mixture, using a craft stick to wedge the bits inside.

We put ours in the fridge to firm it up a bit, but it's not necessary. When you're ready to go, place the pine cones in a bucket or bag so they won't get jostled or damaged too much during the walk.

During our walk we were excited to spot some more deer tracks and followed them to find beds they had made in the snow!

Checking out the deer's morning view.

Checking out the deer's morning view.

Find a tree and help the children hang the feeders to it. Place them at varying heights so the birds can enjoy them up high away from their predators.

Any extra coating and fruit can be scattered around the bottom of the tree.

A fun follow-up activity is to go back a day or two later to see if the animals have found the treats yet. When we went back everything was gone but the stem and the string: I'd say they were a hit!