Embracing Our Inner Squirrels

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?

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21 Responses to Embracing Our Inner Squirrels

  1. eightdecades says:

    Hello, Oh what a truth you speak. I am almost 70 and I and my grand daughters have our pockets full. My house is full of a lifetime of treasures. When I move something or lose something, I feel it in my very self. Somehow we are connected to the energy of the things that attract us. Oh of course we must keep it neat and in some order, I’m not a hoarder, but rather think I am a curator of my own travels. My grand daughters think my home is there museum as well. What privilege!
    I truly enjoyed your posting and it is very well done. You spoke to the heart of all children in us all.

    • Thank you! I’m so happy to hear when someone identifies with a post.

      My own collecting seems to revolve around potential crafty usefulness (bins of material scraps, interesting plastic containers, etc). My son seems to have caught that from me. I’m going to have to cull it soon though!

      • eightdecades says:

        Ah yes plastic containers, lots of those, and yes to crafty applications, I have buttons that are over 60 years old awaiting the perfect new home, clock parts and tiny bottles with corks to match. A blog of treasures could be done. Thanks for your post it is a grand adventure you showed me a poster for.

  2. So true! I remember when Frances was that age, and we’d end up with buckets of acorns and pinecones and bits of gravel from gravel-paved paths, each much too special to ever throw away. It was always such a treat to watch her collect and display her treasures. She’s more selective now, which is a bit sad.

    I have two rocks on my desk at work that she “collected” and gave to me years ago. They’re just bits of granite from someone’s driveway, but they were special to her, so now they are special to me.

  3. When my daughter was 3 she used to collect candles and soap. She used to ride around in her tricycle basket with them all. It was so special…. esp. all those hotel soaps! It still makes me laugh.
    We also had a big plastic box that we would put scraps of whatever she found in the woods . It is now in the attic…. (she is 15 now) I would call it (crap) but I know it was all special to her so I kept for her! Loved that about her

  4. I totally remember collecting things as a kid. I had a “nature bag” that I put everything in. Sometimes even bugs! Cute post 🙂

  5. Actually, I’m afraid I collect things more than my kids! There is so much fun stuff to do with acorns, sticks, and pine cones 🙂 Your blog is refreshing…being in nature is one of the greatest things our kids can do!

  6. Jorie says:

    I couldn’t agree with this philosophy more. As a kid, I collected all sorts of trinkets—including pinecones! I think introducing kids to nature is one of a parent’s most important roles. It teaches them not to fear the world, to act as stewards of the earth, and to value all life, including plants and animals. Love your outlook!

  7. Hello, my children love collecting pine cones, we do it on a regular basis and burn them on our wood burning stove. We are fortunate that we have some woods a minutes walk from our house and we even have a neighbouring eldery couple granting us permission to forage in their gardens as they have 3 over hanging pine trees.
    My children collect everything! You name it they will hoard it. My eldest daughter will stash things in different bags and drawers; lists she has written, flyers that come through the door, lids, pebbles, twigs. She even collects bags within bags! My middle son is the same but he will put his things in corners of the house and in obscure places. I often come across things months later when I am looking for something else. The strangest thing they both like to collect are the little papers that peel off plasters, they call them thingies! Think I’d better write a post about all this on my blog! Really enjoyed reading yours thank you.

  8. Akshita says:

    First things first: I love the title of your post! Well, I’m barely an adult myself and I’ve been told countless times to de-clutter, to not hoard, you get the drift… Regardless, I’m a proud hoarder of sea-shells and my collection grows every time I visit sea-side. 🙂

  9. Aimee Lee says:

    My son (3 1/2) and my daughter (almost 2) both like to collect rocks and they each have their own tins to keep their rocks safe and sound. They enjoy showing off their collections when guests come over. They are so proud of their collections. Oh the little things in life can create so much joy for our little ones.

  10. Pingback: Stickers and Suckers: The Currencies of Childhood | Unlocking the Gate

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