Sometimes it’s impossible to have a pet in your home. Perhaps someone in your family has allergies, or you are unable to have pets due to your lease agreement. This doesn’t mean you have to forego the love and taking care of animals.

While I was sitting here recently working on my computer, near our front porch window, watching some of the visiting birds, I came up with a great idea. Attract birds to your home and use them as an alternate “pet”. Not the type you bring inside, but an animal that you can teach your children to help take care of and watch over. Buy, or make your own, bird feeders and bird houses to attract feathered friends, and if you throw in a book on identifying birds, you have a new hobby.

Not only does this give your children a “pet”, but they also learn responsibility by taking care of the birds needs. A child of just about any age can help fill feeders or clean and fill a birdbath, And to make it more personal, you can allow them to take pictures and keep a journal of the birds they see. There are even feeders that attach to a window where the birds will come right up and eat at the edge of your sill. This would work for an apartment where you don’t have a yard.

As you get to know the birds in your yard, you can choose the best housing to attract and keep more birds in your yard. These could include bluebirds, woodpeckers, ducks, and even owls. There are tips for attracting flying friends and keeping them safe. But note: not all birds use birdhouses, just as not all birds visit bird feeders.

We have a tricycle water fountain sitting on a table on our front porch and the birds have become so used to us, that even while I am working on my computer , they will hop up on the table and drink from the fountain. Just today we had a couple of finches, one bluejay and a cardinal. I have started filling a bowl with birdseed beside the fountain to try to attract more.

If you make your yard attractive to the birds, your child will be able to watch their flying friends almost all year long, even over the winter. All of my children enjoy watching the birds. And yes, you do start to recognize some of them. And if your child is not interested in birds, you could try the same activity with squirrels, butterflies, even bats.

Or maybe you have some ideas of your own, feel free to share them!