Pine Cone Bird Feeders with a Toddler
So this fall my in-laws gave me a bag full of extra-large pine cones they had collected, knowing I would come up with something crafty to do with them. And so what better project to use them for than as a handmade Christmas gift, made by my 2 year old daughter, her daddy and I, that we can give back to them (and to her other grandparents). I had her daddy take pictures as we made them so we can also share the photos of her making them with her grandparents.
Now, this is a MESSY project, so to start with I recommend you either do this project outside where you don't care if there's a mess, or do like we did and put a tarp or large blanket down that you can get messy on and then take outside to shake out. I have a "picnic blanket" kind of thing that we put down because it was too cold outside to do this outdoors. You'll also need some sort of large open pan (a roaster, disposable or otherwise, works well) or box to put the birdseed in. We used the box from a flat of bottled water for ours. And you'll need a large bowl, large spoon, disposable gloves (if you don't want messy hands), a large jar of peanut butter, a bag of regular yellow cornmeal, some kitchen twine (or other strong string) and a bag of birdseed. You want birdseed that's mostly small pieces, not all sunflower seeds, etc. because it won't stick as well.
First step is to put down the tarp. Then, cut some lengths of twine and tie them to the fat end of the pinecone. Hubby did this for me. Leave them untied at the end so they can then be tied to a tree limb. Meanwhile, mix peanut butter and cornmeal in a large bowl until the consistency of cookie dough. You'll want it a little sticky so the bird seed will stick but not so creamy that it just smears onto the cone.
|Mixing the "dough"|
Once you have this mixed up, pour your bird seed into whatever container you're going to use for rolling and you're ready to go. Because my toddler is only 2, and doesn't particularly like having messy hands (doesn't like mud, etc. on them), I handled the "dough" part, but if your toddler likes squishing things, let him/her do the "squishing". Just take a handful of the peanut butter "dough" and squish it in between the tines of the pinecone. Make sure to pack it in pretty tightly and then round it with your hands.
|"smooshing" it into the pinecone|
Once the pinecone is covered with the "dough", place it into your pan/box of bird seed. Now, roll it all around, coating it in bird seed.
|Covering with bird seed|
Make sure to pat the bird seed in well so that it doesn't just fall off. You want it to adhere very well to the "dough".
|Patting it in|
|Fun with bird seed|
After they're all covered, lay aside to dry on a sheet pan or drying rack. This will help them "set". Then just bag them up and they're ready to go. We put ours in "non-zip-top" plastic storage bags and then twist-tied them closed. Give them as gifts or use them yourself in your own yard (we don't have any trees, thus no birds, so are giving them as gifts). Tell the recipient to just tied the cone outside to a tree branch where they'll be able to see the birds come and feast. The peanut butter and cornmeal are good foods for the winter as of course is the bird seed and even the pine cone is a tree as some birds enjoy the seeds found deep inside the cone. The best part is, this project is 100% biodegradable so no need to clean up or throw away any part of it. Enjoy this fun project and have fun getting a little messy!