There is something about going out and hunting for natural treasures that really appeals to kids. Despite the simplicity of the activity, children seem to get so excited about searching through the carpet of fallen, crunchy leaves to find that spiky green shell, and ultimately the shiny, regal nut within. Or getting a big stick and attempting to throw, hit or shake the treasure directly from the tree. A pastime that our ancestors before us enjoyed as children, still as relevant as ever (more so, in fact!) in this age of technology, progress and instant gratification.
This is the reason that every year, it has become a family tradition to add this to our Autumn Bucket list and dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to conker hunting. There is no instant gratification, that 21st century children have become accustomed to. You have to find the tree, search for the shells, work to prise out the conker, compare with siblings and cousins for shininess, size and strength… and at the end you have this oversized brown seed that will inevitably shrivel and need to be thrown away…or at least that’s how the adult sees it, through a child’s eyes, you work hard and are rewarded with a beautiful mahogany coloured gem, with endless possibilities for play. Serious business actually… of course, all play is!
These sorts of activitys are so important to children, especially when repeated year on year. It teaches them about life cycles and seasonal changes. It gives them a chance to get down and dirty in the earth, creating a relationship with nature that will serve them well into their adult life. Loose materials such as conkers are amazing for open ended play and amazing creative thinking opportunities. Being outdoors amongst beautiful things helps to develop a mature and varied vocabulary which is based on real life experiences and therefore relevant and meaningful. Above all, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s quality family time and those things are invaluable!
Playing Conkers is Number 10 in the National Trust’s #50Things Challenge. ✅