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Essential Life Skills Kids Can Learn From Collecting

2019-08-26 by Melissa
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It takes focus, faith, and patience

To find treasures on the sand

When so many have been ravaged

By the ocean’s mighty hand

And requires scanning thousands

To unearth a precious few

But that separates explorers

From those racing right on through

How Collecting Can Teach Kids Optimism, Persistence, Focus, Patience, and Creativity

Beachcombing Image
Having been fortunate to spend a week on a remote island getaway where the highlight of each day is the simple act of beachcombing, I can clearly see the metaphor between avidly collecting and living life with an explorer mentality. The art of collecting requires the same skills necessary to lead a vibrant, discovery-filled life.

5 Ways Collecting Prepares Us for Life

  1. Collecting promotes optimism.
    Collectors are eternal optimists—certain wondrous treasures are ever waiting—just needing to be painstakingly unearthed by curious and deliberate investigators. It’s that sense of optimism and faith in the power of possibility compelling collectors to return to the same stretch of beach day in and day out believing extraordinary finds are just waiting to be rescued.
    Try this with your child: Encourage your child to start a collection. Start one yourself! I’m partial to nature collections since they are free, abundant, ever-changing, and require one to spend time outdoors in all seasons.

  3. Collecting promotes persistence.
    Beachcombing Persistence
    Collecting rewards those who keep at it, who keep searching even in the face of obstacles. It’s truly a lesson in resilience because not every search results in a find. But it’s the thrill of the hunt and its possibility motivating explorers to keep blazing new trails and searching with rabid curiosity to discover what mysteries lie ahead.
    Try this: Challenge your child to come up with specific treasures to discover (a rock with a bit of red in it or a twig that looks like the letter Y, a nest, a feather, or a four-leaf clover). If they don’t find it on their first search, encourage them to keep on trying, since explorers never give up.

  5. Collecting promotes focus.
    Beachcombing is not for multi-taskers or those seeking continual dopamine hits and adrenaline rushes. It takes tremendous focus and acute powers of concentration to suppress the noise of the world. For it is only when we tune out that noise that we can blissfully comb through thousands of dull, ordinary-looking shells to perhaps reveal just a few precious gems. That ability to focus lets us hone in on what’s truly relevant and essential, ignoring the superfluous, and ultimately unearthing the most profound insights.

    Try this: Go on a nature collecting expedition leaving phones and devices at home. Encourage your child to use all their senses in this adventure. Consider creating a sensory collection. Look for items that shine and sparkle. Search for different textures. You can even create a “mind collection” or “nature journal” of the birdsongs you hear or scents you detect (something flowery, something musty, something woodsy, for example).


  7. Collecting promotes patience.
    Perhaps the most essential quality in collecting and in life is patience. And that may be the most elusive one of all in today’s frenetic world of instant gratification. Collecting is not an activity delivering immediate rewards. There are surely days brimming with bounty, but more of them coming up empty. But collectors know they are engaged in a marathon not a sprint, and revel in the painstaking and deliberate nature of the practice. For they already know the secret that the best things in life take hard work and patience.
    Try this: One of the best ways to teach patience is to model it. If your child seems to be getting frustrated on their search for an elusive object, acknowledge their feeling, but also assure them that good things come to those who wait. And look on the bright side: even a seashell-less beachcombing excursion is still a walk by the ocean with a loved one! When you do finally score the big find, make a big deal out of celebrating the accomplishment. And note that it takes time to discover true marvels and that is what makes them so special!

  9. Collecting promotes creativity.
    Beachcombing Creativity
    Collecting helps one develop an eye for detail and hone an aesthetic sense for what makes something beautiful and worth possessing. It also helps define what is most pleasing to each of us specifically—as collections vary dramatically by individual! Sifting through dozens of so-so seashells to find the one that speaks to something in your soul is an exercise in creative vision and discovering what truly makes your own heart sing.
    Try this: Challenge your child to explain what about their collection speaks to who they are as a person—why is it unique to them? Then have your child put their collections on display in a unique way. Perhaps they build a display case out of a shoebox or decorate a pretty container with their actual discoveries to hold other finds.

Collecting and exploring cannot ever be about racing to a finish line or rapidly amassing riches. They’re a mindset of just generally opening oneself up to wonder, never knowing where it might lead you. And the not knowing should be the most exciting part of the experience. Because with pure intent to seek wonder everywhere and no pressure to “succeed,” the irony is before long we WILL inadvertently amass a lifetime of treasures—each with its own tale of discovery and intrigue.
Collecting is only intoxicating BECAUSE its results are so unpredictable. How analogous is this to life in needing to have patience and allowing it to gently unfold before us instead of planning out each and every move we make? For we must continually take risks in order to find our passions before rushing to the finish line prior to discovering who we truly are.
If we can attack each day with the skills and mentality of a collector, our lives will be an adventure full of possibility and potential. And in my humble opinion, that’s the only way to truly live.



As a co-founder and chief creative officer of a toy company committed to championing open-ended, healthy play and as a mother of six who had two children in her 20s, two in her 30s, and two in her 40s, Melissa has had a front-row seat to the dramatic changes in the way kids play and experience childhood. She is dedicated to speaking out about the crisis our children face due to the rise of technology and other societal factors and providing solutions to help families find time for child-led play and exploration.

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