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A simple way to make egg hunts less stressful for everyone, courtesy of the Netherlands

A simple way to make egg hunts less stressful for everyone, courtesy of the Netherlands

Ah, the community Easter egg hunt. Is there more of a mixed bag than this adorable spring tradition?

While cute kiddos with festive baskets hunting for colorful eggs is the stuff of Instagram fever dreams, the reality can sometimes be less than picture-perfect. We've all witnessed overzealous parents racing to make sure their kid gets as many eggs as possible, bigger kids swooping in and swiping the prize before a wee one can get to it, less competitive and more reserved kids feeling overwhelmed by the free-for-all chaos, and some children inevitably ending up in tears.

But it doesn't have to be that way. A Netherlands neighborhood egg hunt shared on Facebook highlights how kids can enjoy the thrill of the hunt without the sometimes brutal competitiveness.

Janelle Hanchett moved from California to Haarlem, Netherlands with her husband and four kids two summers ago. Hanchett, who writes about parenting and life at Renegade Mothering, shared that they attended a neighborhood egg hunt this weekend and were happily surprised by how it went down.


"We just had the neighborhood egg hunt and they did it quite differently," she wrote. "The kids run and find eggs but put them in a big communal basket, then they're divided evenly among all the kids. They even include siblings in the neighborhood who weren't even there (being, you know, too 'big' for such things (or having hidden the eggs)). And the little girl too shy to participate. And they all got the exact same number of eggs."

"This is so smart and lovely I have no idea how/why I never thought of it," she continued. "I always hated the competitiveness of egg hunts — the faster or selfish kids grabbing up what they could at any costs. The milder, younger, slower kids left behind. Seriously that shit gave me so much anxiety I could hardly watch egg hunts. I can't understand why I never thought of this."

A fun, cooperative egg hunt? How remarkably civil.

I asked a Dutch-American friend if this is the way it's done in general in the Netherlands, and his friends who live in various parts of the country concurred that yes, this is how they do it.

"Equally shared at the end of the day, no stress at all," wrote one person.

"Otherwise it would end in tears for sure," wrote another.

Well yes, actually. Tears and/or violence. (Google "egg hunt turns violent" for Easter egg kerfuffles that got so bad they made the news. Good times.)

Some people on Hanchett's post mentioned that they do egg hunts similar to the Dutch way. Because my own kids vary in age so much, our family egg hunts have always looked somewhat similar to it as well. We hide a number of eggs that can be evenly divided by the number of kids, and then tell the kids how many eggs they're supposed to find. Once they reach that limit, they can keep searching, but they aren't to give away where any others are hidden unless someone who's still looking asks for help. The kids love it. It's just as much fun, and so much less stress than the every-kid-for-themselves, keep-everything-you-can-find method. But I've never seen it done that way in any community egg hunts.

It's actually not all that surprising that such a reasonable idea comes from the Netherlands, where egalitarian principles are simply a way of life and kids are taught the value of taking care of the whole from a young age.

"If this isn't the most perfect metaphor for how the two countries approach social resources," wrote Hanchett. "Whew. And no, no kid complained or said 'But I found more!' Because that, too, is taught. As easily as we can teach our kids that there isn't enough so they better plow down the little guy to GET THEIRS—rewarding them for being the biggest asshole in the garden—we can teach them that there is absolutely enough if everyone does what they can, throws it in a basket, and passes it around."

Some will undoubtedly look at this idea and say, "Well, that sounds like communism!" but that's a pretty long stretch. This is not a government mandate—it's a society cooperating to make sure that everyone can enjoy the fun and festivity of a kids' holiday activity. This approach tacitly acknowledges that some kids will have a natural advantage, some kids will be overly competitive, some kids don't have the ability (or desire) to grab eggs quickly, etc., and that those realities will lead to a pretty crappy outcome for some kids. The seeking and finding activity itself still allows for those differences, but when you're hunting for the benefit of the whole, the selfish element takes a back seat.

Making an egg hunt a cooperative team event rather than an individual competition may seem like a revolutionary idea, but it's a brilliant one. Thanks for the inspiration, Netherlands!

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