Being Weaver Birds: A Nest Making Activity

I never had much appreciation for birds until, resting by a lake after a long hike, my husband and I spotted a pair of cormorants building their nest. They worked tirelessly together, diving down to the bottom of the lake, pulling up plants, and swimming — nesting materials in beak — back to their nesting site.

Watching these birds diving and weaving, like master artists at work, I officially became a “birder.” Their determination and skill was just incredible.

For our nest activity, I wanted to find a way for our kids to really experience the craftwork of birds. Yet all I could think of doing was making mud pies with sticks and leaves. Yep. Not great. Most birds skillfully weave; they don’t just clump a bunch of mud together!

Fortunately, one of the Moms in our group, Juna, is an amazing fine artist who has done extensive work with willow weaving. After testing a willow nest with her daughter, she wisely created this simpler, pipe-cleaner alternative that was just perfect for tiny hands.


We started our day by reading Mama Built a Little Nest. This book has beautiful pictures, sweet rhymes, and tons of interesting information about bird variety and nest building behavior.

"Mama built a little nest
Inside a sturdy trunk.
She used her beak to tap-tap-tap
The perfect place to bunk."

Making the Nest

After the story, Juna walked the kids through the process of weaving the pipe cleaners into a nest, emphasizing that they should “see where the weaving wants to go,” and “let it naturally develop.” She wanted the results to be organic, and not overly patterned or rigidly structured. She taught them to trust that it would all just come together. And it did, beautifully!

Twist two pipe cleaners together.
Add more pipe cleaners this way. When pipe cleaners cross, wrap them around each other.
Form the twisted pipe cleaners into a ring.
Weave new pipe cleaners across, wrap pipe cleaners as they cross each other.
Add a 3rd pipe cleaner to opposite ends of the ring.
Keep adding pipe cleaners until you have a nest.

Once the frame is built, fill it in like the birds do. Use leaves, feathers, yarn, fake fur, etc. to make the nest soft and inviting. Add clay eggs, or make wooden painted eggs. Craft some birds to peek out, too!