Sunday, April 29, 2012

Healthier Food Is For the Birds (Too!)

A favourite pastime of many 2-year-olds is feeding the ducks, swans, pigeons, and other birds at Stanley Park.  Aias and Elliot take a particular liking to the birds at Lost Lagoon.  In the past, I confess we've given those birds many Cheerios, bits of crackers or other bread products as we walk by them on the way to the aquarium or wherever.  As it turns out, these aren't the ideal foods for these animals (nor are they ideal foods for most humans, but I digress).

The other day I decided we should talk to someone from the Stanley Park Ecology Society* about better options for feeding the birds.  Here are a few suggestions:

- Oats
- Veggies
- Greens
- Bits of fruit
- Barley
- Defrosted frozen corn or peas
- Cracked corn

We decided to try oats, defrosted frozen peas, and lettuce, and to turn it into a bit of a "sensory activity."  Each little boy had their own silver bowl and they were given the chance to scoop out their own oats and peas, and to shred their own pieces of lettuce.  The oats were dry and soft, the peas were slimy and cool, and the lettuce was cool and fun to shred into bits.

Checking out the goods.  I actually let them do only one at a time; first oats, then peas, then lettuce. Toward the end it was a bit of mix, though.

For the most part, the food that went over the best was the oats.  This was a particularly delicious choice of the pigeons, who liked to peck at it on the pavement.  Aias and Elliot were dumping it into the water and making sludge and the ducks and swans were sticking their heads down to gobble it up.  The peas came in a close second, but they went largely ignored in the presence of oats.  Finally, the ducks and pigeons turned their noses up to the lettuce, but the swans were really digging it. 

A swan munching on some lettuce
I love this activity because it gives them an opportunity to learn so much, including:

- How to behave around "wild" animals
- How to be gentle, generous, and show empathy
- To be aware of if the animals are actually hungry or not (teaching them not to "force feed" the animals
- How to treat the animals kindly (don't chase them, don't scare them, don't move to quickly around them, don't attempt to touch them unless an adult says it's ok)
- What animals eat and where they sometimes live
- Which animals live in the city
- How to share

As for the food choices, I have to say; all the birds were a lot more enthusiastic all the times we brought Cheerios.  It seemed funny to me that even birds seem to be carboholics who'd rather eat a baked good than a vegetable. Oh well. Next time we'll try cracked corn and barley.

On our way out, we saw these gorgeous little baby geese, which was really exciting to the boys. We named the geese Aias and Elliot, of course ;)
More pictures:

A bit of sharing drama, toddler style.
They figured the sharing drama out very fast on their own, however!
He took the lettuce shredding very seriously!

Happy that finally SOMEONE is eating that shredded lettuce!
* Supposedly there are some by-laws in place about feeding birds and wildlife in Vancouver parks.  You can read more about this here.  I'm a little confused about this, as it's clearly a common practice and "feeding the birds at Lost Lagoon" is commonly listed as a thing to in Vancouver.  At any rate, should you choose to do so, just be aware that you may be going against a by-law. 

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