Bird Nesting Balls

Children will assemble materials that birds use in making their nests.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

The children will learn that birds gather many materials to make their nests in the spring.


What You'll Need

  • 2 or 3 birds’ nests that you have saved from the fall (if possible), or pictures of birds’ nests
  • Mesh vegetable bags (e.g., plastic netting from around onions) – 1 per child
  • Leftover thread, yarn pieces, fabric scraps, raffia, tissues, cotton balls – enough for the class
  • Large rubber bands – 1 per child
  • Long pieces of yarn – 1 per child
  • Disposable gloves – for teachers and children if handling bird nests
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

What To Do

  1. Discuss background knowledge about birds and what birds build nests from.
  2. Display the nests (see Lesson Tips) or pictures of nests and talk about what materials birds can use to build their nests (see Did You Know?).
  3. Provide each child with a mesh bag and ask them to fill it with any of the available materials (e.g., thread, yarn). Say, “Think about what we have observed from our nests [or pictures] when you are choosing what to add to your bag.”
  4. Pull the mesh together around the items.
  5. Take a rubber band and wrap it around the open end of the bag.
  6. Thread a long piece of yarn through the mesh and tie the ends of the yarn together to make a hanger. These creations are called nesting balls.
  7. Hang the nesting balls in a tree high enough where the birds feel safe.
  8. Over the next few weeks, have the children observe what materials have been removed from the nesting balls. Also look to see if any nests have familiar materials in them.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the types of materials birds use to build their nests.
  • What do birds use their nests for?
  • Where do you think we can put our nesting balls so the birds can find them?
  • Do all birds build nests? Do they all build nests in trees? (see Did You Know?)
  • Have you ever seen a nest in a tree? Where did you see it? Were there any eggs in it? Baby birds?
  • What other types of creatures build nests?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • In your science center, display the nests and magnifying glasses for children to use to observe. Provide disposable gloves for the children to use when handling the nests and be sure to have them wash their hands when they are finished.
  • Take pictures of the nesting balls before hanging them in the tree. Then take pictures 2 or 3 weeks later. Compare the pictures and encourage children to discuss the differences.
  • Include bright colors in the available materials. Ask children if birds would choose these. Then ask, “Why?” or “Why not?”.
  • Hang 1 or 2 nesting balls in the dramatic play area so children incorporate talk about birds in their play.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain why birds build nests?
  • Could children describe what types of materials birds use to make nests?
  • Could children explain that the materials birds use to build nests also help hide the nests?


Did You Know?

Birds’ nests are natural wonders with a complex design. Many layers are woven, and each layer has a special purpose. The nest is a place where birds keep their eggs and their young hatchlings protected. A bird’s primary concern when building its nest is safety from predators. Birds use materials to help camouflage their nests. They will use any readily available materials when building their nests, such as twigs, leaves, animal fur, spider webs, moss, feathers, string, and pieces of paper. When the young birds are old enough to leave the nest, the nest becomes deserted.

Not all birds lay their eggs in a nest. Some birds lay their eggs right on the ground. Birds such as ostriches, many ducks, and most shore birds lay their eggs in shallow depressions in the soil called scrape nests. Other birds, some owls for example, lay their eggs in a crevice on a boulder or cliff. Certain other birds, like cuckoos, the black-headed duck, and the brown-headed cowbird, lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, resulting in foster parenting of the chicks.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • nest – a structure of sticks and other material that birds make to hold their eggs.
  • bird – an animal with two wings, two feet, and feathers; most birds can fly.
  • observe – to watch with care.
  • build – to make something by joining together different parts.
  • compare – to say or note how something is similar to or different from something else.
  • twigs – small branches of a tree or other plant.

Lesson Tips

  • Teachers and children should use disposable gloves when handling the nests.
  • Be certain to use brightly colored scraps and materials for the project, it will be easier for the children to find the nests in the trees.
  • You can begin gathering leftover materials and scraps for this project from the very beginning of the school year. Place any scraps of material, ribbon, yarn, fabric, strips of paper, feathers, tissue paper, giftwrap, and so on into a labeled box.
  • Some of the materials that you gather can be used for the Recycling lessons found on this website.


  • Baby Bird’s First Nest by Frank Asch
  • The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend
  • The Best Nest by P. D. Eastman
  • In My Nest by Sara Gillingham

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS