Before You Play
Ask your child, “What kinds of birds have you seen?” Encourage her to name or describe the birds she may have seen in your backyard, neighborhood, or a park. Ask questions like, “What do birds eat?” and, “Does every bird have the same size and shape beak?”
After your child has answered, you can explain that bird beaks have adapted to suit the animal’s environment. Look at pictures of different birds and hypothesize how their beaks may be useful when feeding. For example, raptors have hooked beaks to tear into fish and prey. Pelicans have pouched beaks to scoop up fish. A hummingbird’s beak protects its tongue which it uses to sip nectar.
For the “beaks”: toothpicks, straws, plastic tweezers, clothespin
For the “bird food”: uncooked macaroni, small candies, raisins, sunflower seeds, ice cream sprinkles or other small food items you have (as age appropriate)
Paper and pen
Pictures of different bird beaks (such as raptors, pelicans, cardinals, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds)
1 Show your child the activity materials, and explain that the different utensils represent the different sizes and shapes of bird beaks. Ask her what kind of beak each utensil might represent. Show her the food items and ask her what kind of bird food they may represent. If she’s able to write, ask her to help you record these observations on a sheet of paper.
2 Give your child a set of each utensil, one small cup, and small piles of each food item. Allow her to experiment with which utensil is best to pick up each food item. Encourage her to try different groupings, such as the straws with candies, the sprinkles with the clothespin, etc.
3 Discuss your child’s findings. What utensil picked up the small items best? How about the large food items? Ask her to make a hypothesis about which utensil is best for gathering each food item. Record her hypotheses.
4 Tell your child it is now time to test her hypotheses. Testing one food item at a time, give her 30 seconds to place as many pieces as possible in the cup with her test utensil. Record the results next to her hypotheses.
5 After testing each food item, review the results with your child. Ask her, “Which utensil seems to be better for gathering each food item?” Compare and contrast the size and shape of the utensils to the size of the food item.
6 Snack time! Allow your child to munch on the food items (except the uncooked macaroni). Bonus points for using a “beak” utensil to eat.
This activity was created in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.