Have you ever been presented with a pile of mouldering acorns? How about a dainty collection of snail shells -- some still inhabited? Or maybe your child, inspired by In The Night Garden’s Makka Pakka, simply collects stones. Round stones, shiny stones, tiny stones, sharp stones; the latter guaranteed to make you cry out in pain when your bare foot makes its inevitable introduction.
Most children have a fondness for the natural world, and they usually want to bring it home with them. My own balcony is hard to discern, buried beneath a carpet of imported pebbles, interesting sticks, smashed gastropods and crushed acorn matter. Our four-year-old tarries behind on every walk, always on the lookout for discarded sequins or spent buttons. Does she ever find anything useful, like a pound coin or that loyalty card I lost? No. She acquires a frayed end of ribbon or a lichen-covered stone (“Pretend it’s the heart of Te Fiti!”).
More often than not, though, it’s a big pile of tree stuff. Whatever happens to be dangling from the arbors at the given time: conkers, acorns, ash keys, “helicopters”, beech nuts, or simply leaves or twigs that take her fancy.
Most of the time, these remarkable hoards sit around mouldering until a parent sneaks them into the bin. Occasionally, though, kids find a clever use for their treasures. Kidadler Alexia shared the following on our Facebook group:
“Mine keep on collecting acorns at the moment. My car is full of them. They say they're collecting them to use them as coffee machine pods in their toy kitchen!” Careful with them there acorns, though. On more than one occasion, we’ve found an expedition of maggots wriggling across the carpet from their oaken base camp.
Sometimes, parents can get into a spot of bother, as Sophie relates: “My 6 year old daughter has been picking up random beer bottle caps aka treasure for years. I always bin them straight away but she thinks I’m collecting them for her. Every now and then she asks to see her collection and I have to change the subject. I may have to buy some new ones on eBay!”
The collector’s eye of the child doesn’t always stop at inanimate objects, as Kidadler Sa Ra found: “My son brought home a live caterpillar from school. He didn’t tell me though. I was emptying his school uniform pockets before washing and a fluorescent thing moved out of the pocket. It was half squashed as he had put it in his pocket at lunchtime and by now it was 4pm!”
And it’s not just youngsters. Some teenagers retain the urge for natural keepsakes. “I found a load of cherry pips in my washing machine once,” says forum member Davina. “My 14 year old stepdaughter forgot that she'd left them in her pocket and thought she'd try growing a cherry tree!”
What does your child collect from the wild? Have they ever brought anything home that’s particularly strange or repulsive? Do share your stories in our Facebook Group thread.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.