Children love to collect found items! My eight-year-old continues to come home with found feathers, sticks, and interesting rocks. My older kids have built their own collections of rocks, minerals, elements and fossils. Collecting has become a family affair and a wonderful way to encourage curiosity in the natural world.
Children’s interest in the natural world begins early. Young babies and toddlers enjoy observing and are fascinated by the animals and plants around them. A trip around the block can take ages when walking with a toddler because she stops to examine ants, a bird on a cactus, and a dog walking by. This interest in the natural world continues as children grow and begin to wonder about the history of the earth, the history of life, the rise of dinosaurs, and the objects of natural history (minerals, rock formations, meteors, plants, etc.)
We noticed the kids’ interest in rocks, minerals and elements and encouraged it by taking trips to museums, old mines, rock shops and The Tucson Rock and Mineral Show. When we first decided to attend The Tucson Rock and Mineral Show, we didn’t know it was huge event. There are talks by geologists, a precious gem show, jewelry vendors, a children’s section run by college students, and an extensive amount of booths with rocks, minerals, and fossils of every kind imaginable. It is an amazing show and the kids were captivated by the collections on display. Attending the show spurred their interest in collecting. If you are local to Arizona and have a rock or dinosaur enthusiast, I recommend visiting the show.
As the kids interest in rocks and minerals grew so did our collection of specimens and books. This year, I purchased the cabinet in the photo above to help display and keep our growing collection. I think living in the southwest has encouraged our collecting because we have access to rock shops and old mines to tour.
A couple years ago, a friend and I encouraged our kids to set up a booth at the science fair in held in conjunction with the March for Science, 2017. Her daughter has an interest in geology and her own beautiful collection of rocks, gems, and minerals. The kids prepared their booth exhibit, shared resources and had an interactive rock dig for young kids. This was a wonderful way for them to share their interest in natural science with other kids.
The kids still enjoy making trips to natural history museums. We try to visit natural history museums when we travel. Our favorite so far is the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. They have buildings dedicated to different fields of natural history, a botanical garden and zoo!
Natural history is about understanding our place in nature and about making observations. The museum visits and the rock, mineral and fossil collections have been a simple and sincere way to learn about the natural world. By following my kids interest, I have also had the chance to learn about paleontology, early humans, and our local geology. It’s been fun to learn alongside them.