What child hasn’t picked up stones, seashells, or other found objects and started a collection? Collecting stuff is a natural part of a child’s interest in the world around her. What may look like an assortment of useless junk to us shines like a stockpile of golden treasure in a child’s eyes!Though the items she seeks may have no monetary value, fostering your child’s pursuit of those precious items can indeed bring very real returns. Here are several reasons to encourage your child in the hobby of collecting.
Setting Goals: Starting a collection is a fun way to begin learning to set goals, which many experts agree is a key ingredient to success in life. Parents Magazine has published an interesting article about the importance of teaching kids goal setting. You can read the article here. When your child shows an interest in collecting, help him to set a fun and achievable goal, whether it’s finding a pretty stone at each place you visit on vacation, searching for a particular Matchbox car, or seeking out something more challenging.
Organization: As a retired teacher, I know that putting things in order is important in the development of both Math and Reading skills. Show your support for his enthusiasm by purchasing an interesting box or container, (maybe even a treasure chest!) so your child has a special place to store his collection. Before my son started kindergarten, he was particular about organizing his Matchbox cars so that each one faced the same direction when he put them away in the case. Though he wasn’t so fastidious about his other belongings, he was learning skills about organizing at an early age!
Building Character and Vocabulary: Through collecting, children learn perseverance and patience as they seek out their prizes. They also learn to believe in themselves as their collection grows and they learn more about the items they seek. The collection becomes something they are knowledgeable about and as they talk about their items, communication skills increase. Who could forget the Beanie Baby craze? My children knew which ones were most sought after, and even what to look for on the tag! If a child is interested in collecting dinosaur figures, you can be sure that he will soon be spouting off each one’s scientific name and dinosaur facts that you never knew before!
Building Relationships and Memories: I am often struck by how much I have gained from being interested in collecting glass and dinnerware. When my grandmother brought a Royal Winton Summertime flowered plate to me as a souvenir from one of her vacations, I was probably not much older than eight.
I loved the colors of all the chintz blossoms, but the gift appealed to me even more because it seemed like a “grown up” gift! At that time, I was her only granddaughter, as she liked to remind me, and I felt special to receive such an attractive gift. Years later, after my grandmother had passed away, that gift took on a new significance. I treasured that plate because I knew that Grandma had chosen it especially for me. But it was only as an adult that I began to learn about the collectability of English Chintz dinnerware and the companies who made it.
Family Connections and Traditions: My other grandmother married a man from Germany and they sometimes took trips to visit his family. They brought Hummel figurines back with them, and I was fascinated with the detail in the workmanship of these lovely and delicate pieces. As an adolescent, I expressed an interest in collecting the serene figures of the Hummel Nativity. Over several years of birthdays and Christmases, my parents, grandparents, and later, my husband, gifted the pieces to me one at a time, until my set was complete. Unpacking the pieces each year while relating the Christmas Story became a family tradition I cherished with my own children as they were growing up. The set is a wonderful reminder of generations of love and memories.
History and Geography: When I was young, my mother bought a souvenir spoon for me on a trip to Sarnia, Ontario. From then on, collecting souvenir and antique spoons became a fun way to learn about the world and its places. Not only did we find and purchase souvenir spoons when we went on a family vacation, but sometimes relatives would bring back a spoon from a place I had never been. This interest in spoons quickly grew into a love of fancy sterling silver antique spoons!
Whenever I went to a flea market or antique show, I looked for the sterling souvenir spoons with embossed bowls and intricate handles proclaiming a historic event. I became more and more curious about when, where, and why these spoons were made, and began to learn more about their historical significance and the world around me. It was through my spoons that I learned at a young age about such events as the California Gold Rush and various early World’s Fairs and Expositions.
Even Career Education! Several years ago, I sold an inexpensive American Dinnerware vintage bowl to a lady who kindly wrote to tell me that her child had been digging and unearthed an old bowl in the same pattern one day. He had become fascinated with the discovery.
I loved hearing her story, and I was touched by the realization that this mother was encouraging her child in the adventure of uncovering artifacts by purchasing a match for his now growing collection. Perhaps that child will one day become an archaeologist!
Just Plain Fun: What first sparked my interest in collecting and antiques? It may have been when my grandmother gave me that pretty plate, or it could have been the influence of my other grandma’s trips to Germany and her collection of Hummel figurines. It may have been when my mother started me collecting souvenir spoons on our vacation trips, or our many summer days spent searching for agates along the shores of Lake Superior. The chances are that it was a combination of all of these influences and more that shaped my interests in collecting pretty items from the past and wanting to learn more about their history. More than that, it has taught me that kindling an interest in collecting is a warm and special way to build relationships, create special memories, inspire positive traits, and help your child shape some life-long interests. Most of all, collecting is a fun way to spend valuable time with your child!