Deeply rooted in our evolutionary past, the habit of collecting things emerges in the first year, and for many of us, continues throughout our lives. It has taken on a whole new meaning since I had children.
The other day, I was sitting near a pine tree with some neighbours, and all of the kids started bringing us pine cones. And more pine cones. And more pine cones. With the industriousness of squirrels preparing for winter, our little ones stacked the pine cones higher and higher.
I remember, as a child in the schoolyard, collecting swarming masses of tent caterpillars in a sandy pit. I also remember a classmate ripping many of these caterpillars in two. There are no limits to the inquisitive mind of a 6 year old. But I digress.
My five year old’s collection of crafts, scraps, packaging and bits of paper, each of which is of vital importance to his survival, is setting him up nicely to be featured on an episode of “Hoarders.” I can’t entirely blame him. With “waste not, want not” firmly implanted in our set of values, it can be difficult to purge things. You just know you will find a use for something five minutes after the recycling truck comes by. I do it to some extent too, but overflowing cupboards and drawers bother me more than him. Pinterest is full of people offering solutions to help people de-clutter and organize. Our society’s focus on the acquisition of material goods, much of which we don’t even need, perhaps is a mutated version of this biological necessity.
But, it somehow feels different when it comes to natural things. Pinecones, acorns, rocks, dandelions, shells, autumn leaves, and for some reason, Y-shaped sticks. What an abundance of free play materials!
So, my boys, collect away! You are spending time outdoors. You are interacting on a most basic, beautiful and primitive level with the natural environment. You are finding value in those things we adults tend to ignore. It is costing me nothing. You are not asking for another toy that will be discarded tomorrow. Gather to your heart’s content, and prepare us for the long winter.
… As long as the rocks come out of the pockets before they hit the washer!!
What do your kids collect?