Five things that Collecting Teaches Kids

It would be rare to find a kid or adult that doesn’t have a collection of some kind.  I have a collection of Swiss Army Knives.  I’m lucky enough to have my father’s and my daughters have given me one as well which I hope later will be returned to them.   But what makes us collect, even as children, is it healthy and should we encourage it?

Why we collect

Collecting starts young.  A young child will “collect” its favourite soft toy or blanket.  Denial of that soft toy will promote distress in the child and provision of it will promote calm.  We can see the seeds of collection in our children from their toy selections.  My daughters, now 8 and 11, share a large collection of Littlest Pet Shop.  Even though the pretend play with Littlest Pet Shop has subsided, the mere thought of disposing of the Littlest Pet Shop collection and the dollhouse they reside in is met with fierce opposition.

Psychologists argue that there is a controlling and impulsive dark side to collecting, in that there is a need for people to have “an object of desire.” This desire creates an innate need to collect and this begins at birth. A newborn baby initially desires the emotional and physical comfort of the nourishing breast.  The baby then moves on to a familiar baby blanket which they cling to for comfort and security.  Look in any baby’s bedroom and you’ll see a collection of stuffed toys, not provided by the child, but by parents and friends who recognise this need.    The sense of ownership and control by owning these toys provide comfort to the vulnerable child.

Now I could go into this further and reference what Freud thought of collecting and why we do it.   I will provide a enough background for those who want to impress at the dinner table or down the pub. Freud didn’t see collecting as stemming from these kinds of motivations (ownership, desire, and comfort). Like Freud did, he theorises that collecting ties back to the time of toilet training (cause he does). Freud suggested that the loss of control and what went down the toilet was a traumatic occurrence and that, therefore, the collector is trying to gain back not only control but the “possessions” that were lost so many years ago. Well, maybe not for the dinner table after all.


Benefits of Collecting

When I talk about collectin g, I’m not referring to just buying stuff. Also, it’s not about collecting something in the hope that one day there will be an economic return.   The collecting I am referring to is the collecting that we did and our parents did.  This could have football cards, stamps, rocks, shells, etc .  The child slowly builds up the collection into an assortment of related treasures.  They will hold great sentimental value, but not necessarily a monetary value.

As parents we need to be careful not to squash a child’s natural desire to collect because we are concerned about the clutter of the collection or the impractical nature of a collection, but we also have to tread the fine line of making sure the collection is not turning to hoarding.

Here are five of the benefits of collecting.

1.       Patience

Collecting can teach children patience.  That patience could be the sorting through a large beach searching for the right shell.  It could be having to wait for the next time we go to the shops to purchase that breakfast cereal to obtain the last card in the collection, or doing chores to earn that last $10.00 for Pokémon cards or Shopkins.   We should be mindful to make collecting a slow and rewarding process that teaches children that good things come to those who wait.

2.       Curation & Responsibility

A true collector takes pride in their collection.  The collection needs to be cared for and stored.  This process of curation teaches children responsibility.   The enjoyment also comes from caring for the collection.  My daughters still dust and clean their rock and “shiny coins” collections and proudly show them to us.  The entertainment value of a growing collection is immeasurable because sorting and admiring a collection is a source of great pleasure for a child. One day they will arranges by colour; another day by type.


3.       Organisation & Order

A collection is often arranged and labeled and requires research and critical thinking. Once a collection reaches a certain size, jumbling all of the items in a box is not practical. A collection needs to be shown off in some way – albums, display boxes, or card files. Choosing how to arrange a collection is good for a child’s organizational skills.  A schleich collection of animals can arranged into species, country of origin or even friends.  After all, it’s a kid’s collection.

4.       Relationships

Healthy relationships can be fostered from collecting.  When your child is known for collecting a certain object, family and friends help the collection along by bringing back small gifts from their own travels. The new item in his collection then becomes a reminder of that special friend or family member who was so thoughtful towards him.

5.       Value and Commerce

When children are collecting similar objects to their friends, they learn about barter and trade.  Whether it be Pokémon cards, Littlest Pet Shop or Lego mini figures , children quickly learn that  scarcity means value and if you have more than you need, you can trade that for an item you need to further or finalise your collection.


Collecting can be healthy and should be encouraged.   We can see the benefits that healthy collecting can promote.

Toys Paradise would like to give away a $50 voucher to the member who our staff votes the Best Collection.   Now this isn’t a child’s collection, this is YOUR collection.   All you have to do is post your collection on our Facebook page together with a brief description.   The competition will close on October 8, 2014 and our decision will be final.

We hoped you enjoyed the article and we’d love to hear any comments you have.