SeashellsThere are a few things you may or may not already know about shell collecting or “shelling.” Yes, it’s a great opportunity to bond with your child, nature and take home tangible memories. But those shells can really stink up the backseat of your SUV or minivan before you can say, “Are we there yet?” Plus, you don’t want to bring home clusters of oyster shells covered in wart-like barnacles to keep from breaking your child’s heart. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Here are some tips on avoiding heartbreak, buckets of broken mollusks and ways to preserve your treasures.

Don’t pull a mussel.

Before beginning your shelling expedition consult a guidebook with shells that are indigenous to the area. This turns your shell collecting into a scavenger hunt for kids of all ages. Plus, it helps educate them on leaving shells behind that have live animals in them. Many areas prohibit keeping live shells or animals so it’s best to discover, and simply live and let live. Go online, or stop by a visitor’s center and purchase a guidebook. I found it helpful to print out pictures online or bring the book with us to the shore.

She cleans seashells.

Once you have collected the perfect seashells to take home, you will want to clean them ASAP. For dead seashells, you may notice a kind of flaky skin on the outside. This outer covering which resembles a sunburn that is pealing, is known as the periostracum. Using a shallow plastic container, spread out your seashells submerged in a solution that is half bleach and half water. I have found that at least two hours is a good rule of thumb. However, it’s best to keep an eye on them and remove the shells as soon as the periostracum is gone. Rinse in cold water and soak another couple of hours in fresh water. Set aside and allow your specimens to dry spread out on a towel. If you want your shells to shine lightly rub them with baby or mineral oil.

Treasure trove.

Personally, the idea of hanging a bunch of shells in a net on a wall is better suited for a seafood restaurant, not my living room. Instead, here are some options that might work best for your new collection.

-Jewelry. Turn that seashore find into priceless jewelry by picking up a kit available at most craft stores. The earrings are a bit tricky, so newbies are advised to make a necklace first.

-Centerpiece. Simply fill up a vase and place on your table or counter.

-Wreath accent. Using hemp string or a hot-glue gun decorate a one-of-a-kind wreath.