Feeding the Birds: Teaching Empathy

One of the most important skills I believe preschool children need to learn is empathy. To put yourself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective is incredibly tricky for little ones. It’s a skill that builds slowly and can be introduced in various ways. As snow gripped the country last week, I saw an opportunity to start introducing empathy in a simple way.

The girls had noticed a black bird sitting on our wall with its feathers all puffed up. I explained that birds sometimes do that to help them keep warm. I asked them how they thought the bird might be feeling. Emily said she though he looked lonely which is understadable as he was indeed alone.

What do you think the bird might eat today? I quizzed. Quickly, they realised he probably would struggle to find food. They explained that there were no berries on the trees and he wouldn’t be able to get to any insects from under all the snow.

Could We Help Him?

They were very excited about making him a bird cake. I sent Daddy out to the garage to retrieve the bird seed we had and found half a bag of berries and nuts that hadn’t been popular. We set about making some birdy treats.


  • Lard (room temperature not melted)
  • Bird seeds/nuts
  • Raisins or dried berries


  • Bowl
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • String/twine
  • Plastic container

Before you start, it’s best to prepare your plastic container/s. Ours had holes in so we could tie string through. You could easily pierce holes if needed. This way you can hang the bird cake from a branch and hopefully out of reach from cats. You can also cut 20cm lengths of string and knot together to form a loop. This is for making cake balls with any leftover mixture.

First we cut the lard into pieces and then we poured over a selection of nuts and dried berries. Before we could start, the girls decided that the nuts and berries that they’d previously rejected looked quite appetising and so had a mid make snack. Jess was keen to get her hands in. Emily not quite so keen. Keep adding and mixing in seeds/nuts until it is about 50/50 dry ingredients to lard.

You can then spoon or use your hands to fill your prepared containers. With any remaining mixture, create balls around the knot and place on foil. Normally, I’d put bird cakes in the freezer for a few hours but with our own outdoor freezer…aka the snow, we just put them on a tray outside.

When they firm up, simple cut away the plastic container and hang your bird cake for your feathered friends to enjoy. The cake balls are great for dotting around your garden too. Hopefully the birds will visit our garden and gain some vital nutrients to keep them going until Spring finally decides to show its face.

I love taking opportunities like this to teach my girls in a way that is really meaningful for them. Every day they are learning more and more about the world around them and developing skills that will be used time and time again as they grow.

Do you feed the birds?


feeding the birds teaches empathy pin

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