How wonderful it is, as an adult, to share in a child’s joy and pride as they carefully open up an old match box to reveal the precious, found treasure within. All you need are some old match boxes and a walk outside. The only rules are that the object has to fit in the matchbox and not be alive. Finding a dead snail in a box weeks later can be a little dispiriting! You can line the boxes with some sheep fleece or dried grass for the treasures to nestle in.
Encourage the children to slow down and really look around them. Gently lift up stones and leaves to see what’s hidden underneath. Looking for small things helps children to focus and slow down, giving time for nature to work its magic. Admire the small details on a snail shell or the patterns on a pebble. Model your own awe and wonder at the treasures found. Encourage discussion and descriptive language when sharing their finds. If you need to get them started you can suggest they find something smooth, prickly or patterned. Once they start finding things they won’t want to stop.
Try and take little boxes or collecting bags where ever you go for some impromptu foraging. Your children won’t realise they are learning about different environments and the objects found there. This is the first step to categorising and sorting. Children who are budding collectors might like to label their treasure boxes and sort them into categories. This will encourage repeated treasure hunts as they search for their particular favourites be it seeds or shells or pebbles. I had one child who was particularly interested in small things, he commandeered an old screw storage box of his grandfathers to store his finds. Each little tray was labelled and the treasures laid on a bed of sheep wool. We still have it 24 years later...it’s a much-treasured reminder of his childhood.
By Jo Jones