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Why Toddlers Hoard Stuff

Eleanor Parham, 2, loves to pull all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cabinets into a pile. She also likes to gather dog toys, paper towels, and rocks from the garden. "Basically, she'll collect anything that's not nailed down," says her dad, Jim, of Bloomington, IN.

It's not uncommon for toddlers to hoard eclectic objects, from soup cans to acorns. What makes them such avid hunter-gatherers? For starters, at 2, kids now have the manual dexterity to reach out and grab most anything, and they're excited to try, even when it's something too big or heavy to carry. They get a sense of pride from having stuff in their possession --especially if it belongs to someone else, like Mommy, Daddy, or even the dog. And the more stuff, the better!

Plus, "Some kids feel secure and comforted when they have familiar household items with them throughout the day," says Marsha Gerdes, Ph.D., a psychologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

If your toddler's gathering dangerous items, like scissors, you'll need to up your childproofing until she's out of this phase. If it's something you need, like the car keys, go ahead and reclaim it --she'll move on to another collector's item soon enough.