Sunday, September 21, 2014

Backyard Birds (Safari Ltd. Review)

You probably already know that we absolutely love Safari Ltd.'s TOOBs! They have so many wonderful uses, from simple matching activities to art study to small world play. We own many of the TOOBs and even a handful of the larger replicas. We have used the TOOBs to create colonial small worlds, explore space and even an Ancient Egypt sensory bin! The replicas are extremely versatile in how you can use them for learning activities. We use their replicas daily for play and homeschool lessons. So whether you homeschool or just want to give your child extremely detailed toys to learn and play with, you can't go wrong with Safari Ltd.

We are reviewing the Backyard Birds TOOB, which includes a Robin, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Indigo Bunting, Oriole, Warbler, and Cardinal. Since each of the birds in the Backyard Birds TOOB can be found in New England (we used this site to look them up and listen to their bird calls), we made it our goal to find each of them over the summer. We have spotted all but the Indigo Bunting. We saw a similar bird, but it didn't turn out to be the bunting we were looking for. We see robins nearly every morning, and we have seen woodpeckers and cardinals about once a week. The other birds have been harder to spot.

We borrowed a book called Learning About Birds to try to match the Safari Ltd. figures. Four of the seven were covered in the book. We checked out other bird watching books from the library and read those as well. It became a habit to bring a bird watching book and our nature journals outside with us when we took walks or visited the park. Whenever we spotted a bird, we looked them up and read about them and draw some sketches.

We read the descriptions and compared the features of the bird we saw with the figure. One of the benefits of Safari Ltd.'s replicas are how realistic they look. They are definitely accurately sculpted and can be easily identified because of it.

Not the same kind of woodpecker (the Safari Ltd. figure is a Pileated Woodpecker), so we took this opportunity to compare their features to the Downy Woodpecker!

We see the birds often in the yard and around the park. The day we were outside reading this book, we saw a Cardinal, Robin and Pileated Woodpecker!

Our Favorite Bird Books

National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America
Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring.
The Great Race of the Birds and Animals by Paul Goble.

We are using these three books as our main selection for the year. We do occasionally pick up more bird books when we come across them at the library. Learning about birds has been a really fun addition to our science lessons. We also play Ani-Gram-It with a focus on birds. We have learned about their anatomy, classifications, where they live and what they eat, among other interesting facts. Primarily we have introduced lessons on birds at the end of our history or geography lessons. We are focusing on U.S. History this year, so we have been working through different time periods and we use a literature-based approach to learning, so it's easy to integrate bird books into the mix. We started with Native American history, which is where we began learning about birds, their spiritual natures and cultural importance. The Native Languages website has a huge list of myths and legends about birds.

We created several different art pieces, from simple drawings of birds, to making construction paper nests. (The Mallard Duck is from the River TOOB.) We added these to our Nature Scrapbook.

Bald Eagle by Bean

I also made 8 different crocheted nests, from really small to really large, using different shades of brown and green yarns. There are only seven birds in the TOOB, but Bean insisted on making a nest for the Eagle from the River TOOB too. I basically made them like nesting bowls, so they all fit inside the big nest.

My kids also loved the sensory bins we created. Their favorite was the one that contained bird seeds, small rocks, grass, the nests and the bird figures. They were able pick through the rocks and grass to find the seeds to bring back to their nests. Their other favorite sensory bin contained grass, straw, twigs and branches, leaves, scraps of fabric and yard, and other natural bits. They were able to use the materials to create nests for the birds. Another sensory bin contained the nests and plastic eggs that we painted to resemble the eggs of the birds in this TOOB and the object of the activity was to match the bird to their egg. 

My only complaint with these figures... are the perches they stand on. I love that Safari Ltd. hand paints their figures and put a lot of care into details. So it surprised me that these figures are not standing on brown branches and green grass, and instead they are on black or grey branches and grass. There's probably a reason for this, but my preference would have been for natural-looking perches.

I really hope Safari Ltd. expands on their bird figures, because it would be great to see some more! Such as a Birds of Prey TOOB! It would be really awesome to see some hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, vultures and other birds of prey in their own TOOB!

Be sure to visit Safari Ltd.'s website. They have an incredible selection of TOOBs. You can also find Safari Ltd. on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Disclosure: I received the Backyard Birds TOOB for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

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