Holiday Gift Project for Kids: It’s Strictly for the Birds

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These peanut-butter and bird-seed-covered pine cones are messy, but they’re for a good cause.

Many kids will be out of school for winter break and will need something to do other than watch TV. Today’s activity will make kids – and birds – happy.

In the last few weeks I’ve shared some holiday crafts perfect for kids (or grown-ups).

First, we made beautiful jewelry from Dollar Tree plastic critters.

Next, we forced bulbs with the promise of colorful flowers to bloom for the recipients after the holidays are all over.

And the third project had cooks in mind: bouqet garni. 

Today, as promised, I’ve saved the messiest for last: Peanut-butter and bird-seed covered pine cones. Yes, my favorite 5-year-old granddaughter and favorite 8-year-old grandson worked on this project in time to give as holiday gifts, but they’re a wonderful present any time of the year, especially in winter, when birds are foraging for food.

The kids are lucky enough to live on a piece of property that has a few tall gray pines that produce huge pine cones. Last week they brought a box of the gorgeous pine cones to Noni’s house for our project. In addition to pine cones, you’ll need peanut butter (or suet), and wild birdseed. This year, we decided to add some peanuts in the shell for larger birds.

I recommend buying a jumbo-sized container of peanut butter, such as what you’d find at Costco or a restaurant supply store. Make sure you scoop out portions of the peanut butter into bowls for the kids, unless you’re OK with bird seed in your peanut butter.

As I mentioned, this is a highly messy project. I put large cookie sheets on the kitchen island to catch as much bird seed as possible.

After that, I let the mess begin. I gave the kids (and grown-ups, like Aunt Bethany, who took part in the fun, too)  table knives to spread peanut butter or (suet, if you prefer) all over the pine cones.

Pine cone photo bomb, courtesy of the 5-year-old’s older brother.

Next we sprinkled the bird seed over the sticky surface, and if you’d like, you can do as we did and tuck shelled peanuts into the openings.

This is an easy project, and the kids have fun adorning their pine cones as they wish.

The most difficult part about this project is trying to avoid the pine cones’ sharp scales. Plus, because the pine cones are so bumpy, it takes a bit of finesse to fully slather the cones with the peanut butter, which meant that the kids tired fairly quickly of trying to fully cover their cones. This got my sister wondering why nobody had thought to invent spray-on peanut butter yet. Great question.

Good enough!

After that, the pine cones were ready for Noni to tie kitchen twine to the top scales, so the pine cones could one day be hung from branches. Next, I put the finished cones on paper plates and shrink-wrapped each one (I love shrink wrap) to help contain the seeds, then tied each one up with a ribbon.

Little bird feeders, ready to give as gifts.

The lucky recipients can put their pine-cone birdseed feeders in a place where the birds can feel protected and may snack freely, but also where curious humans can watch which birds come to dine.

The backyard birds will find a nice treat when they visit this pine cone feeder.

The timing will be perfect for the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 16 through the 19th, which is a fun event for bird-lovers of all ages.

Maybe by then my kitchen will be free of the last traces of bird seed and peanut butter. Just in time for the next project.

This best of article was originally published December 27, 2018.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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1 Response

  1. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    You are a fun Grandma….I did that one year just for our birds, no grandkids involved. As I recall it rained really hard and my cones became undesirable for our feathered friends. Maybe putting them in oak trees was not the best tree?