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Bird-watching has always helped me de-stress; now, I do it with my son. I love bonding over nature with him.

Jennifer Sizeland   

Bird-watching has always helped me de-stress; now, I do it with my son. I love bonding over nature with him.
  • I've loved bird-watching since I was in my 20s. It's always helped me de-stress.
  • I showed my son birds through the window when he was born, and then, we started going to the park.

Since my son was a baby, we've loved to go bird-watching together. It is a hobby I discovered while I was in my 20s and had high-functioning depression while suffering from severe anxiety and OCD. I found that when I was out walking, shifting my focus to searching the trees, skies, and lakes for signs of birdlife really helped to calm my mind.

I have been fascinated by nature since I was a child, and as I got older, it continued to be part of my lifestyle to spend time outdoors, observing my environment. It meant everything to me to pass this interest on to my son; I hoped he would also find peace in nature and develop a passion for animals. I was thrilled when he did, and we love exploring together.

The beauty of birds is that they can be seen everywhere — from the car, in gardens, on rooftops, and in rivers. Living a life with wings means they exist in urban and rural areas, and in all different environments, whether you're in Denver or Dubai.

I introduced him to nature early in life

While pregnant, I went on long walks to de-stress and took the opportunity to introduce my unborn son to the sounds of nature. While he was in my belly, I would listen to all kinds of birdsong and the babbling of water. I would tell him all about the birds that I could hear in the hope he might recognize their melodies once he officially arrived in the world.

After my son was born, I would sit in the window with him and count any feathered friends that flew past. I knew he loved it, as his eyes would follow our garden birds as they flitted through the trees, and he would smile at them. One of his first words was 'bird,' when he pointed at one that he was keen to show me.

As he grew up, I would take him to parks, lakes, and fields to point out wildlife, like ducks and robins. At home, I bought books that featured birds so that we could find them on the pages together after we'd been on a walk.

I spend as much time outside with him as possible

Even though two-year-olds are known for their short attention spans, and many toddlers would not seem to love sitting with their mother to calmly watch birds, he enjoys it as they are constantly moving and doing something. In fact, it has become an essential weekly activity for us. He's in childcare for half the week, and bird-watching is a great way for us to bond when he's with me.

A wetland reserve near us has a small hideout for families in a camouflaged cabin with a full-length glass window and tiny chairs so that children can see the birds without the wildlife being able to see or hear them. He also loves to use my binoculars when we're in the hideout or out walking to find birds that are far away in the sky or trees. When the weather is bad, we fill up the bird feeders in our garden together to encourage them to visit. Engaging in nature-related crafts and activities also helps him to learn when we're not able to go outside.

As toddlers are such natural sponges, he already knows the difference between crows, pigeons, seagulls, swans, and geese. It is great for his language learning, as it gives us something fun to talk about. Additionally, bird-watching is an activity you can do for free, which is so essential when the financial toll of parenthood is so great.

There are so many distractions in the modern world, so having these moments together reminds me to be mindful and present during the early days of his life. Any time spent in nature has so much to offer us, it's just often difficult to slow down enough to reap the benefits. However, when you're with your child, you can both learn together and reconnect after times of stress.

You don't just have to look for birds either, as we've spotted deer, farm animals, butterflies, bees, worms, and fish, too. I hope that by nurturing his curiosity and providing opportunities for exploring nature, I've given him a lifelong love for birds and wildlife that we will share forever.

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