As soon as kids can hold objects while moving, they seem driven to collect and cart things from one place to another. When our oldest was just over one year, I recall her filling a small blue bucket with pebbles, leaves, twigs and seeds. She carried the full bucket to a new spot only to dump out its contents and repeat the whole process. Since then, her compilations have steadily become more focused and personal, and she'll undoubtedly further honed her collections, taking great pride in curating, tending and sharing them with others.
Sound familiar? If you are like us, you have wondered, Why do kids collect and cart things? It turns out that children are collectors by nature—and for good brain-building reasons. So, if kids naturally collect, and collecting is good for kids, parents have an easy onramp to a worthwhile activity—just head outside and hand them an empty egg carton. This simple (and cheap) tool helps to focus kids on collecting. Its very design also makes it easy for kids to see the individual items as well as their relationships to one another, supporting categorization. Try some of our favorite prompts to get them started. The rest is easy—that is, until you find yourself eating 6-egg omelets each morning to keep up with their collecting.
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?