5 Ways Kids’ Collections Build Lifelong Skills
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has required the world to hit pause and stay home much more than we’re used to, we’re asking ourselves, “What should we do today?” We’re discovering hobbies that we didn’t have time for before, and they are SUCH a welcome addition to long days. One great activity for kids that will build lifelong skills is to start and maintain a collection.
Think back to something you collected when you were a child (or still do). Do you remember the pride in finding each new addition? How exciting! I bet you can still name some of your favorite items, or recall the story about how you found them, how many you collected, and even some interesting facts. Whether your collection was spoons from various states, baseball cards, stickers, or something else, not only did you build fond memories from collecting, you also built many important skills.
How about your children? Do they collect figurines, stickers, stuffed animals, stamps, or things in nature like rocks or seashells? It may seem silly to stop every ten feet of a nature walk to pick up an item for your child’s “collection,” or dig through piles of mystery/surprise bins to find a particular character, but children gain a lot of benefits from collecting. Read on to discover 5 lifelong skills kids build from collecting.
1. Develop an Interest in Learning & Research
When kids find something they love, they want to know more about it. That thirst for knowledge is so exciting to see! No matter what the item is, there are facts to be discovered and information to share. Use your child’s collectibles to spark a desire for research and learning.
Ask questions to find opportunities for discovery. What causes eggs to hatch? What world are those critters from? Why do you find those near the riverbed and not in our yard? What year did baseball start?
When kids do not know the answer, look it up, and learn together. If children are collecting a fictional item, invite them to invent the answer by writing or telling a story, including reasons why and how it came to be (great story starters!). They will proudly share their new information the next time someone asks them about their collection.
- Chart what you know, want to know and have learned using a Discovery Chart KWL Worksheet Free Printable
- Write down a list of things to research about your collection and track progress using a Checklist Free Printable
- Rock collectors can refer to this Types of Rocks Learning Chart
- Learn more about rock types with this Rocks & Minerals Mini Bulletin Board Set
2. Practice Organizing, Sorting & Counting Objects
Think back to your childhood collection. How many times did you take everything out, arrange and rearrange them in groups (by color, size, shape, favorites), before putting them away again?
You didn’t know it, but you were building valuable observation and sorting skills. You discovered lots of different ways to categorize the same items and were strengthening your ability to compare objects.
The next time your child is playing with a collection of items, encourage them to group the objects any way they choose. When they have finished, ask him or her to describe which objects go in which group and why. You’ll be surprised at the different categories they create! For bonus math practice, work together to graph the results and practice reading the graph.
Next, choose just two favorites from their collection, and invite your child to map the characteristics of each item on a Venn diagram. Kids will love figuring out all of the similarities and differences. How many can they list? Change out one of the items and make a new diagram. Cool!
Add math operations to the mix too. Gather collected objects and flash cards to make math basics interesting. Show a math flash card, and then use the items to visualize the solution. Count out objects for each number to solve the problem. Nice work!
- Record and categorize collection pieces with a Graphing Grid (Small Squares) or Graphing Grid (1 ½ Inch Squares) Wipe-Off® Chart
- Chart similarities and differences within your collectin using a Venn Diagram Chart Free Printable or Venn Diagram Wipe-Off® Chart
- Write on Wipe-Off® surface charts with Wipe-Off® Markers
- Count collection objects and tie in with math lessons using Math Skill Drill Flash Cards
- Map out where collection pieces came from using a map poster or bulletin board set.
3. Build Social Skills & Confidence
Having a hobby like collecting is a great icebreaker for kids. Whether they share the same or different interests with their peers, their collection gives them a sense of expertise and talking points, and brings a comfort level to conversations.
How many times has your young child met someone new and your first inclination is to say, “Tell them about…” leading your child into the conversation? Prompting kids to speak about their collection is a great way to get them out of their shells and engaged in discussions. Their expertise gives them extra confidence to interact in situations where they might have otherwise felt shy.
Finding common ground with their peers through items they collect is also a great social opportunity for kids. Discovering shared interests builds a foundation for friendship and finding even more commonalities later! There may even be clubs or organizations centered on their interest. Getting kids together to admire each other’s collections, trade or bargain with each other, and share stories about favorite finds builds valuable social skills and lifelong relationships.
- Label and categorize collections for easy talking points using chart stickers or labels
- Create a shareable collection inventory list using our Free Printable blank charts
- Make a mini-museum of your collection(s) and give admission tickets to invite family and friends!
4. Learn About Limits & Making Decisions
When collecting free items, like rocks, it will be important to set limits on how many you take home. Encourage children to keep their collection to a manageable amount.
Before searching, set a limit and communicate it to your child (a maximum of 2 new rocks today, for example). Not only does this help with management and space in your home, but it is great practice for kids to make decisions, weigh pros and cons of items, and practice restraint.
For older children, ask them to agree to a limit for their collection and have them track it themselves. This is great practice for self-discipline and teaches responsibility. They will have to effectively manage their items and make decisions to abide by their agreement.
- Write down collection rules using a Rules Free Printable
- Track collection pieces using a Checklist Free Printable
5. Earn Opportunities & Value Rewards
It might go without saying, but not all collection ideas kids come up with will be free. If purchasing items is not feasible, steer them a bit so they may reserve costly collectible items for special events, birthdays, holidays, and so on, and start a different collection with something else.
Since it is getting nice outside, it is perfect timing to suggest a nature-inspired (aka free) collectible. Give them some choices, like rocks, seashells, leaves, bugs (if you’re up for it) so they can still find something that interests them.
Whether a paid or free collection, create a system for kids to earn new collectibles, accessories (binders, sticker albums, and cases), or even “searching” time. Begin with an incentive tracker and set goals for your child to meet to earn their rewards. Not only will this help motivate them for chores, schoolwork, and other tasks, it’ll also help them associate value and hard work with their collected items.
- Chart collection milestones with Incentive Charts & Pads
- Fill in incentive charts and pads with perfect chart-sized stickers
- Track collection goals using Free Incentive Charts
Get Started with STICKERS!
If you’re interested in starting a collection with your child, but not sure where to begin, stickers are a great collection idea for kids (adults, too!). Bonus: stickers don’t take up too much space, come in lots of themes for all kinds of interests, and are relatively inexpensive, especially if you buy variety packs and start a system for kids to earn them over a series of months.
There are lots of options about how and where to collect stickers – you can leave them on their original sheets, stick them individually on wax paper, or cool, colored sheets of paper. Store your sticker pages in a binder to easily put them away too. Sort by sticker type, theme, scent (FUN!), and more. All of the benefits of collecting apply to stickers like any other item. Find fun variety packs and start a love of stickers and collecting today!
- Collect and trade scented favorites with Scratch 'n Sniff Stinky Stickers®
- Make your collection sparkle and shine with Foil and Sparkle Stickers®
- Curate a tiny sticker collection with our chart-sized superShapes & superSpots® Stickers
- Find collectible characters and tradeable topics with superShapes Stickers