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Collecting with Children

A Little Collection Goes a Long Way


Child's Water Set - Depression Glass Look-alikes

Children's Reproduction "Cameo" Water Set

-Pamela Wiggins

Tips for Collecting with Children

- Always enforce the "look but don't touch" rule when in an antiques mall. Make sure kids do not run or roughhouse in antique stores for their own safety and the safety of others.

- Use the shopping experience as a learning tool. Allow children to ask questions about unusual items, and teach them to respect property belonging to others in the process.

- Show children items you recognize from childhood or your grandmother's house. Explain why they hold fond memories.

- Encourage kids to start small, inexpensive collections. Teach them how to display and care for their collectibles when they get back home.

- Let kids look through books on collectibles that interest them, or topics that interest you. Learn about antiques and collectibles together.

Learning Through Collecting

In addition to having fun, as children gather groups of objects they learn to take care of them, display them, research them and budget their allowance to buy more.

Collections can mirror a child's personal interests or historical topics they learn about in school. Other times accumulations just kind of happen over time. Being naturally inquisitive, children tend to hone in on things adults may not notice.

Kids also learn a lot from shopping for antiques and collectibles since history abounds in all areas of collecting. Even as a child, reading my mother's Depression glass book taught me to recognize most of the popular patterns and colors, and I asked questions that helped me to learn about the Great Depression in the process. I still use this information as an adult as a writer, antiques dealer, appraiser and collector.

What to Know Before You Go Shopping with Children

There are some important factors to consider before taking a child into a shop filled with attractive, breakable items:

  • Children should never be allowed to roam freely, since many antiques aren't safe for kids to touch, and they may not even realize they're in the danger zone until it's too late.
  • Lots of older items are fragile, too. Touching them, even gingerly, can cause damage. Children need guidance to realize some playthings aren't really playthings anymore. This is true even at flea markets, which can be less intimidating but still hold valuable and dangerous items here and there.
  • Young ones can learn to respect other people's property when properly supervised in this type of environment, but it helps to gauge a child's maturity level before you go shopping.
  • If your collecting buddy generally behaves well and listens to instructions in other stores, chances are they'll do fine in an antique shop as well. If they're still too young, sticking to garage sales is a less risky choice.

With a little thought and consideration, collecting adventures with children can be lots of fun. And nowadays, you don't even have to leave home to go treasure hunting.

Collecting with Kids Online

Collecting online can be entertaining for children. Research can be done on most any collectible item, old or new, and collections can be grown as well. It's thrilling for a child to receive a package containing a collectible item in the mail, but buying online should always be supervised by an adult.

Remind the child that even minimal shipping costs can drive up prices before getting too keyed up about a purchase. Make sure fees added to minimally priced items stay within a reasonable range of budget limitations to avoid disappointment. And teach them to always let a more experienced adult review a purchase before they make a commitment to buy something online. A trained adult eye will often notice condition problems or signs of authenticity that children just learning the ropes might overlook.

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