Whatever looks interesting (ages 2+)—“Would you like to fill your box with things that you like/that look really neat?”
Sensory hunt (ages 3+)—“Do you think you can fill your treasure box with things that feel really neat/soft/rough? What if you used your nose (ears) to hunt and filled your box with things that smell (make a sound)?"
Size (ages 2-4)—”What things can you find that are just the right size to fit in these cups? What objects are too big?”
Simple categories (ages 2+)—As soon as children start to sort things by category (most 2 year olds can do this), they can hunt for objects that fit a particular category. Easy "starter" categories include things with interesting or similar color, shape or texture.
High level categories (ages 4+)—Older children may be able to search for 6 different things that are alike in a more abstract way, further developing the ability to make connections. Such categories might include: things animals eat; things that creep or crawl; parts of a plant; things that your best friend would love; things that your brother/sister would find icky; things that would make great features for a mud face; etc.
All different (ages 4+)—To help kids understand the differences between things, encourage them to collect things that are all different in a certain category. Some examples: all different colors, all different textures or all different smells. Note: This is more challenging than it sounds, especially if you use the whole dozen.
As our young ones (~1.5-5 years old) collect, they repeat universally common behaviors called schema that parents worldwide recognize and that experts believe are important for brain development. This kind of collecting supports three particular schema: transporting, connecting, and enveloping/enclosing.
Also, as a child decides which objects are in or out of a given collection, she learns to categorize. As she grows older and more capable, the categories she uses grow more sophisticated. Kids need to categorize in order to make connections—an essential skill that will allow them to make sense of what they read, hear and discover in the classroom and the world beyond. As a child grows older (ages 5+), his collections will have more meaning, giving him ways to develop a sense of self, develop socially and unearth lasting passions.
Finally, the process of collecting and the final collections themselves are both reflections of your child—and we all know that young kids love to talk about themselves! So, take this opportunity to develop your child's communication and language skills. Ask them questions that get them chatting and thinking. Some examples: How did you find these treasures? Which is your favorite and why? What would you look for if you had one more cup to fill in your treasure box and why?; How are the treasures in your box similar? How are they different? Who else might like this collection and why do you think so?
We think all families should be learning outside. Try this activity with your child and begin to see the power in outdoor, play-based learning. Have fun!Email it to me