Friday 4 August 2023

Taking my kids to the Falconry display and crafting a barn owl family

We're spending a lot of time at home this summer.  A combination of budgets, timings and other activities going on in our lives.  We are fortunate to live not far from Hampton Court and they have some events on.  This year we have been to the jousting which all the kids enjoyed and we also saw a falconry display there too.  It went well and we have a craft to make as well. 

To prepare our autistic kids for the visit the first thing is my own preparation.  The displays are over a few days and at set times each day.  I chose a day and time of day that I thought would be least busy - a Thursday at 3pm (the last showing of the day). It also meant we could wait half an hour at the end of the display and then the jousting would start.   I thought about what the seating would be like and what to take... it was going to be just sitting on the grass so I took a blanket.  This means David knows where he is supposed to sit. I also took the ipad and charger as I knew there would be some down time once we arrived. 

Then I prepared the kids.  Anthony likes to know a weeks schedule roughly at a time but can cope with things last minute.  He's often not sure he wants to go to things but often enjoys them once he is there and over that feeling.  David just needs a days notice - too far ahead and it's too. much to imagine.  I also showed it to hi on our calendar so he can see it coming up when he wants to.  I showed him a few images of a falconry display so he had an idea about it.  If it helps, some kids will benefit from crafting the topic before hand... others as a follow-up task. 

The display was fun although not terribly engaging for David.  The birds had to be quite close before he looked at them but it wasn't busy and we were able to sit next to the rope around the little arena.  They had a barn owl, a hawk and a peregrine flacon which was very fast.  Overall is was an ok event, no dramas and a fun thing to do before heading off the the jousting (that I would highly recommend).  

Many people with autism, like some of my kids, have fine or gross motor skills challenges, but it's great practice for all kids and helps with their imagination and learning. This fun craft combines going through or preparing for the falconry display and some skills too. 

To make this little Pine Cone Barn Owl Family you will need:
  • A pine cone for each owl you want to make (we did four)
  • Cotton wool
  • Coloured paper / coloured sticky paper / paper and colours to make beak and eyes
  • Leaves or feathers for the wings
  • Glue stick or glue gun
  • Scissors and a pen
By placing the materials around the table, you'll be encouraging your kids to cross their midline when doing the activity. Gluing and sticking is also a great practice for bilateral motor skills as you need to use both hands together, eg. holding the paper and gluing, or holding the glue stick and pulling the top off or pulling the cotton wool apart.  Stuffing the owls is a great fine motor skills activity and helps develop a good pincer grip for writing development too.

Snowy pine cone owl family

To Make your Pine Cone Barn Owls:

1) Go for a walk and collect any of the extra things you need to make your Barn owls from nature. We talked about what owls were like, what nocturnal meant and what we could collect to make them.  We collected pine cones for the owls bodies and tried to find small matching leaves to make their wings.

2) We looked through all the materials we were going to use. I encouraged the children to feel the prickly pine cones and the soft soft cotton wool. We looked at the veins on the leaves and thought about how they were similar to feathers. Then begin by “tearing” the cotton wool apart to make it smaller and stuff the pieces into the pine cones.

3) Once your owl has enough white stuffed into it, it's time to add eyes and a beak. We drew circles and triangles on orange stick note paper as it meant there was less sticking. Easigrip scissors can be helpful in developing the motor skills action if the kids are able or interested in cutting out the beak and eyes themselves. As they are sticking to to cotton wool, it's really easy.

4) We then selected matching leaves to be used at wings, trimmed them into wing type shapes and attached these with a glue stick.

5) Once all the owls were made we collected them together in a barn owl family. We used some pebbles as eggs (even though it's not the right time of year :-)) and glued some of them into a shell like a nest as a table decoration - but it's also great fun just to play with them as little figurines too.  

Have you been to any bird displays or done any bird crafts?  The display at Hampton Court has finished but the team there were from the Hobbledown in Hounslow so if you are interested you could probably go to one there.  Happy holidays. 

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