By Christina VanGinkel
Children are by nature collectors. From the times they are very small, children will collect just about anything they are given a chance to. Rocks, leaves, trading cards, whatever, if a child is provided with the opportunity, they will most likely jump on the bandwagon for the ride.
If you have a young child searching to find their niche when it comes to the collecting bug, help them out by asking them a few pointed questions on why they want to start a collection, and then ask yourself how you might be able to help them begin.
Do they want to collect something that their friends are collecting, such as a specific type of trading card so that they can trade with the other kids? If so, how do they plan to buy them? Do they get an allowance or have gift money from a birthday or holiday that they are allowed to spend? Are they interested in something such as stamps for the shear interest factor of them? Maybe they are earnestly interested in a specific subject, and are leaning more towards beginning a collection of books and models that represent that very subject, such as models and literature on dinosaurs, or antique cars. Where do they plan to store and or display their collection? Is this collection something they want to collect all on their own, or would they like help from you?
Are you willing to fund any part of the collection? This might not be an issue if they are collecting rocks or bugs, beyond the initial tools such as a bug collecting kit, but could be a huge issue if they want to collect the newest collecting card craze. Is there space for what they are collecting, and if not, are you willing to help them find that space. Model building may only take up a small corner in a room, but if a child shows a great interest in building constantly bigger and more complicated models, they may soon outgrow any designated space within their own room, and may need that space revamped, or find another outlet all together within the family home.
Consider the Togetherness Factor
Another option to consider if your child wants to collect something, but is not sure of what, is for the two of you together to collect something. Think of things that might interest both of you, and of that, might not be overly difficult to begin at least. Some suggestions that might be fun for the two of you together could include comic books, post cards, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or some other film collectible, a favorite television collectible, or Beanie Babies. This is by no means a complete list, just a short primer to give you some direction on where to look to begin. Movie collectibles for example might appeal to the two of you together, yet you might both end up collecting specifically very different items. You might look for actual movie memorabilia such as posters, while your child will be drawn to action figures and such related to the movie. Because the themes overlap though, you can still enjoy the camaraderie of both being interested in the same subject. When other parents are wondering what to talk to their child at the dinner table about, having a hobby that the two of you share can at least be a subject to discuss together, and if you end up going to sales or shows together, in search of collectibles, this is yet another way that it can work to keep the communication lines open between a parent and child.
Whether your child walks up to you and announces that they want to collect such and such a thing, and they know exactly how much money they have to begin, and where and what they are going to do with it all, or they are the exact opposite, and just sort of whisper that maybe they would like to collect 'something; but they are not sure what, try to be positive about the whole subject. Collecting is one of a human's most natural instincts, and it can be fun and a positive practice for your child, simply by providing them with a focus to direct their energies toward.