Birdhouses art project using cake tempera paints

Birdhouse and Paper Bird Art Lesson


Drawing a birdhouse is easy and satisfying for second graders. By combining some basic shapes, kids create a bird sanctuary complete with their very own feathered friend.

This lesson is fairly easy. It only requires two 40-minute sessions, but you could extend it to three classes by adding a more detailed background and more decorations to the bird.

Drawing and painting the birdhouse

Using an oil pastel, make a dot at the center of the paper near the top. From the dot, draw two lines on an angle. This becomes the roof line. Make an “echo” line around the roof line so that the roof isn’t just one line, but a shape. Draw a line from the roof down both sides. This becomes the side of the house. Next, draw the stand. It is shaped like a letter “T” but you can fancy it up by adding decorative brackets. Add a small circle shape for the opening.

Set out a pre-mixed palette of tempera paints. Have fun with your paint bottles. Add a few squirts of white to the yellow, orange to the red, yellow to the green…be inventive! The art will thank you for it. Give the bottles a good shake and pour into muffin-style palettes.

Paint the roof, birdhouse and stand. Encourage the kids to add a sun, grass or flowers…whatever they wish. I asked the kids to keep the background white (for the sake of time) but the piece would look lovely with a few clouds and a blue sky.

Birdhouses art project using cake tempera paints for second graders

Outlining the painting

Some days, I just forget my camera. This day was one of them. So for this step you will have to depend entirely on my written instruction! Set out small containers of watered down black tempera paint and small brushes. Show the kids how to trace over all of their oil pastel lines. Most kids this age do not have the finesse to create perfect black lines, and nor should they! But they will learn that pressing too hard on the brush yields a fat line and holding the paintbrush lightly yields a thin line. If this step doesn’t appeal to you, try outlining the birdhouse with a black oil pastel. Less messy with great impact.

Creating the paper bird

Now that the background is done, bring out a tray of colored and printed papers. You will also need pencils, glue and scissors.
Do a direct line drawing of a bird…the simpler the better. Have the kids draw a bird on the back of the paper. Large or small…doesn’t matter. Then, cut out the bird and glue it onto the background. Some children chose to cut out two birds and some made one large bird. Encourage it all!

Second graders make the loveliest birdhouses, don’t you think?

Birdhouses art project using cake tempera paints for second graders

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  • Sue

    Another great lesson for my special needs kids. I will give it a go next term. Thanks 🙂

  • Toni

    great lesson I may do this this coming week after one of our nature studies.

  • alejandra

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Tracee

    cool idea! I just found your blog…I've been wandering through your old posts a little and wondered if you might have any suggestions for working with special ed students. I'm a parapro working with two high school students that have CP and when we go to art class the projects are way out of their ability range…they need more simple projects but I also don't want to be too childish as they are in high school now… Any ideas??? Thanks!!!

  • Patty P

    Hi Tracee,
    One of these days I plan to add a star next to the projects that I feel works best with special needs kids. I have many inclusion kids streaming into the regular art class and I have noticed that some art lessons work better than others. Can you check back again?

    • Shelly

      Just checking in to see if you have ideas for special needs students. I have a young student with Down Syndrome to keep in mind when planning lessons. Thanks for so many great ideas.

  • Jennifer

    I just finished this lesson with my 134 second graders! And every single one of them turned out great!!!! thanks for the idea. I love it.

  • Jenna

    I absolutely LOVE this lesson! I used it with my second graders at the beginning of the year and they had a fantastic time doing it! I have to say I was a little nervous about having them draw the birdhouse with pastel instead of pencil, but-you were right-they didn’t mind and they did a great job (and didn’t even worry about not being able to erase!) We used 3-D O’s to make the birds pop off the page and they added feathers to give it a little extra flair. They turned out beautiful!! Thanks for the great lesson!

  • Kat

    I love this lesson. I used it with my fifth graders last year but did a twist on it. I photocopied pages from books about the audobon society and the kids used these to collage their birdhouses- (drew them first in pencil) then filled in with torn pieces of paper- looked like newspaper…. We then used watercolors on top of them. The birds were another drawing lesson and then added to the picture! The results were outstanding and the kids had a great time! Thanks for all the inspiration!!!

  • Tery Castrogiovanni

    Did these houses in watercolor last May with my second graders. We used big pom-poms and feathers to make birds for the houses. They loved them! This years seconds keep asking when they can make them! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly Dillon

    Just did this lesson for an art class this morning for a group of K-3rd graders. The kids loved it – so much fun! Thanks for sharing so many inspirational ideas!

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  • Amy Ruiz

    Thank you for the inspiration. Elementary school art teachers are an incredible source of projects for People Living With Dementia. The skills you focus on for your students are skills that I am trying to
    help my residents maintain. I can’t say thank you enough.

    • Patty Palmer

      This is so beautiful to hear. I know that many teachers use my lessons for autistic adults but I didn’t think about adults with dementia. Thank you for being able to see past the child focus and realize that art is art as longs as it brings joy.

  • Suzanne

    What a fantastic spring project for my Gr.1/2 creatives! Thanks so much!

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