It's not just people that seek warmer temperatures in cold winter months: Animals of all kinds migrate, adapt, or hibernate to get through chilly winter days. To help the wildlife in your area, your child can create a brush pile that becomes a cozy den for wildlife in winter. The animals thank you!
Small branches with leaves, other brush like leaves, moss, vines, plant parts, parts of old Christmas trees
Optional: native wildflowers or seeds
What You Do:
Explain to your child that brush piles can be important habitats for wildlife, providing them with shelter from predators, cover from severe weather, escape routes, and resting areas. Brush piles also benefit the environment by keeping yard debris out of landfills.
Help your child locate a good area to build a brush pile. Near your garden can be a good place to attract small bug-eating animals like birds. A pile can attract pests like skunks and snakes, so don’t place it too close to your home. Also keep it away from bird feeders; predators could hide in the pile and attack birds. Besides your garden, dens can benefit wildlife near forest edges or entrances, near fields, and by ponds. If you want to take it a little further afield, make sure the area is public and allows this activity.
Help your child collect the listed materials or provide them ahead of time.
Put the two largest logs or branches on the bottom as a base for the pile. (The parent can move very large pieces.) Stones or rocks can also go around the base, but leave an opening or two. Let your child lay the next-largest logs or branches over the base in an alternating “log cabin” style, i.e. two logs perpendicular over the two base logs, etc.
Next, your child can pile brush over the center area of the pile. Have him make a small pile resembling a mound or tent.
You and your child may wish to plant native wildflower seeds or flowers near the pile to provide nectar for native bees or pollinating insects.
Congratulate your child on creating a brush pile to benefit wintering wildlife, including birds, toads, squirrels, butterflies, and more!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.