Why Every Child Should Start a Collection (and Look for Wonder in the World!)
Having just returned from the beach with its incredible bounty of natural gifts, I was struck by the power and profound joy my family finds in collecting. Nothing is off limits when we’re treasure seeking on the shore, whether it be finding our favorite shell — the Sunrise Tellin — or pieces of driftwood, sea glass, sand dollars, starfish, or the elusive intact sea fan or pen shell. In the world of discovery, unearthing a rare treasure is enough to make us feel like we’ve won a gold medal in the Olympics. Coming home with a prized catch feels so profoundly satisfying and engenders priceless looks of pure joy on my children’s faces!
Fueling a collecting passion and building a collection should be a hallmark of childhood and is ever so important today when connections to the tangible world are becoming fewer and fewer. In today’s fast-paced society, “collecting” and holding real, tangible art in the palms of our hands, is a lost pastime. And that is because, with the speeding up of time, we have stopped being avid seekers—no longer rabidly curious about the physical world around us and lifelong explorers intent on discovering the wonders of nature. Sadly, we spend more time these days looking down at our phones or tablets and are generally more concerned about what is going on in others’ lives rather than opening our eyes to what is unfolding right before us in our environment. And if we do open our eyes to what is miraculous in our world, there is usually a screen between our eyes and the occurrence to record and immediately share it, rather than being completely in our hearts and purely reveling in the simple awe of the experience.
The Benefits of Collecting: Building Focus, Patience, Commitment, and Stories for a Lifetime
Collecting demands we keep our eyes wide open and stay aware because as a collector you never know WHEN you will unearth something wondrous, WHERE you will find something wondrous, or HOW you will find something wondrous. Since you need both your hands and your eyes to engage in collecting, a phone will just get in the way. It’s up to you to remember every vivid detail. Collecting signifies the belief in possibility — that there is always something extraordinary hiding right amidst the ordinary for us to discover. We just need to stay open enough to see it.
Collecting also involves tremendous patience, because deep discovery often takes sifting through an inordinate amount of silt before you find the gold nuggets. Collections are not about instant gratification and cannot be formed overnight—a collection is a commitment that can span a lifetime and grows slowly and authentically over many years. Because collecting isn’t about one specific instance or a single moment in time — it is about aggregating powerful memories — as every item in a collection should evoke a specific time, place, and story around the discovery of that piece. Collections for me are like an intricately woven quilt — with every piece a square that weaves together a powerful story over many years and becomes part of the fabric of our lives.
Collecting offers such promise and a reason to keep waking up each day eager to forge ahead and blaze new trails. I find collecting the ultimate in hope — for no matter how dire our lives and the world may seem — we are only one discovery away from another miraculous addition to our collection!
3 Ways to Inspire a Love for Collecting in Your Kids
Ready to encourage your kids to kick off a collection? Here are some ideas!
1. Look to Nature
Kids can collect all kinds of treasures, of course — coins, baseball or trading cards, stamps, dolls, marbles, figurines, etc. But I am partial to nature collections for several reasons. First, they are free and abundant and, second, they encourage kids to get outside and look for wonder in the natural world! Rocks, acorns, leaves, pinecones, seashells, vials of sand from beaches visited — these all make for great collections for kids! And just as humans are unique, every single object we find in nature is slightly different, so collecting bits of nature truly hones our observation skills in discovering and embracing uniqueness everywhere!
2. Get Creative by Putting Collections on Display
Once your child has accumulated a few items for their collection, help them find a special place or a special way to store or display them. You might designate a shelf in their bedroom, decorate a treasure box, or repurpose a container to hold the collection. Encourage your child to be creative in how they manage their collection. Perhaps they create a fun name or logo for their collection and label the items with the date they were added, the location they were found, or other memorable details. As collections get bigger, determining how best to organize them is a great skill for kids to develop!
3. Make Time for Collecting and Reflecting
Once your child has embraced the joy of collecting, you have the perfect rejoinder to their cries of “I’m bored!” because you can simply suggest they go out in search of an item to add to their treasures! Be sure to build in free time to their schedules so they have an opportunity to add to their collections. And don’t forget to reminisce with kids on the stories behind their found objects. Encourage them to elaborate on the when, where, and how of their finds and share their discoveries and stories with others!
I wish you luck on your collecting adventures! May both you and your children find everything you are seeking and more! And please share your collecting adventures and collections with us!