We were bored. School was shut, pre-school was closed, the novelty of the snow was wearing off, and Monkey man (my other half) had disappeared off on a business trip for the entire week.
What we needed was a good old-fashioned wintry day activity. Cue, pine cones.
This is a great, quick project to keep children interested - messy enough for the 5 and unders, easy enough to supervise with a baby on your hip.
You will need:
- 3 medium sized pine cones (as open as possible)
- String or twine
- a cup of lard (or you could use suet)
- 2 cups of oatmeal
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of birdseed (we used sunflower seeds)
- 1/2 cup of chopped raisins or sultanas (or other dried fruit)
Take 5 minutes to prepare - chop the raisins, melt the fat* in a saucepan over a low heat, put out the ingredients and tie a 50cm length of string to the pine cone
Put the fat in a large bowl and let the children start adding the ingredients and stirring it together
Spoon the mixture onto the pine cones and press it into the spaces (the children can even just use their hands - messy but effective) - I suggest you put their pine cones in separate bowls to contain the destruction a little
Clear up - don't let the children move! Anything they touch will be covered in grease. I bought a bowl of warm water to the table, squeezed washing up liquid on their hands and made sure they were fat-free before they got down from the table
Let the mixture cool and harden before hanging them on a tree or bush, or even from an existing bird feeder
Ours now grace the small ornamental cherry outside the playroom and we eagerly wait to see if the birds visit. We'll need to wait 24 hours at least as they're always wary of new additions so I'll let you know later if we have a feast or a flop. Still, it entertained the kids for half an hour so in my book it's already a success.
*Amendment (Jan 2011) after a few experiments I found that lard is soft enough for children to simply squish with their hands and mix in the other ingredients at the same time - just make sure it is at room temperature