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Have you noticed that any time you’re outside with children they naturally begin to pick things up and “collect” them? It’s part of their natural curiosity about the world we live in, and it is a wonderful thing. Nurture that curiosity by encouraging the children in your life to make collections of all kinds. Younger children can choose three or four treasures to save and display. Older children are able to do ever more detailed collections of all kinds.


In addition to awakening the wonder at the vast bounty of our natural world, children also respond to the “fun of the hunt” involved in collecting things. From an educational point of view, collections also lend themselves to basic math and science learning. Younger children can sort by size, color, shape and pattern. Older children will learn to identify, label, organize into categories and classify their treasures in many different ways. Parents can support these learning activities by allowing collections some display space in the home. Many children enjoy creating their own “museum” for a period of time. They will naturally want to add drawings, short informational descriptions, and charts. Voila! You have created an engaged learner!


What to collect? The possibilities are endless. Some favorites from the natural world include rocks and minerals, shells, feathers, bark, leaves, pinecones, insects, butterflies and moths. Other collectibles might include coins, stamps, stickers, miniature toys, dolls, bottle caps, comic books, gum wrappers, buttons or marbles. If there are a lot of them around, you can collect them.


Adults can further encourage such independent learning by purchasing appropriate books, field guides and posters related to the collection of the day. You might even want to have a disposable camera or binoculars on hand for capturing images during impromptu nature walks. See the following list of ideas to get you started. Happy collecting!

The Kids’ Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences by Susan Milford

Nature Smart: A Family Guide to Nature by Tekiela and Shanber

Field Guides by theAudubon Society

The Insect Book: A Basic Guide to Collection and Care of Common Insects for Young Children, by Connie Zakowski

Kids Collect:  Amazing Collections for Fun, Crafts and Science Fair Projects by Dan and Mary Hubley