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This month I received a catalog of books on collectible items. While perusing this eclectic periodical I realized the world of collectibles is so vast, folks may not realize some of the more inexpensive, yet educational, choices available. I have decided to expound on the more obscure of these items collected as a hobby. Keep in mind, please, that if your ultimate goal is to bridge the generation gap, while at the same time sneaking in something educational, and not spending a fortune to do so, you have to cooperate with the child and his/her personal interests, not yours. Literally everything that can be accumulated can be turned into an interesting learning experience. Thus begins our journey into the world of the "Hey, I didn't think of that!" collectible.
Beginning with a humble tree we can derive tons of cheap (sorry, inexpensive) items to accumulate. Various types of bark from a park (although I'm not so sure forest rangers would approve). Leaves are a biggie! Collect and identify green leaves, then in the fall go back and gather the same leaves after they have changed colors. Hey, at least you'll get a nice outing twice this year! Don't forget nuts, berries, and seeds. For a twist, how about a collection of different types of milled wood, such as cherry, walnut, pine, etc. As long as we're talking about trees, lets look at the various by-products trees afford to the avid collector.
Paper: Different types of paper including linen, rice and fiber leads to the discussion of the origins of paper -- and can include making your own paper.
Pencils: Affordable and found EVERYWHWERE! Some pencils are free with advertising on them, some are found with designs on them that kids could get into. I can picture a whole collection of sports covered pencils, or of animals, geometric designs, or cartoon characters.
Post Cards: Pick themes such as people, monuments, buildings, etc. Or, collect post cards from places you visit on your vacation or from others on their vacations. A great way for kids to receive their collectibles through the mail is to make return address labels and give them, together with a book of stamps, to a relative taking a trip making it easy for sender to do so.
Paper Dolls and Paper Construction Kits: Boy, I wish I had my paper dolls from when I was a young girl. These are extremely collectible! My husband remembers putting together a western village made from cardboard stock pictured paper you cut out and folded that afforded him hours of fun. You can still find these available in places like Barnes and Noble bookstores and hobby shops. I'd suggest, however, for the little extra expense it would take, getting both the dolls and the kits color copied at your local office supply store. There should be no problem with copyright infringement as you will be the only one using these copies, and you will only need one copy of each page on a cardboard stock type paper. This way you can preserve the value of your dolls or kits and the kids can still have the enjoyment of playing with them. (And, as I've said before, for a collectible to have meaning to a child the child must be able to enjoy playing with it.)
Business Cards: Fun and totally FREE! A great goal for a child would be to collect a business card from every capital in the U.S. Have them write the governor of the state, or their very own district congressperson explaining their project and I'll just bet you they'll be thrilled with the results. After that goal has been accomplished, think WORLD!
Gift Cards: These are the small cards found mixed in with the wrapping paper that are usually blank and used to tell the giftee who the gifter was. They are relatively inexpensive and extremely varied. Check out the discount card shops, too!
Paper Napkins: Tons, and I do mean tons, of printed on kids-type paper napkins are available. Check out your local toy store's birthday aisle. It's amazing!
Newspapers: A front page from your local newspaper for every birth date day from birth to current can usually be found in either your local library or the newspaper's own archives. Talk about history? Talk about sneaky!
Magazine Advertising: Search for free or low cost magazines and have the child search through them for advertising that interests them on certain subjects. I'll wager that while searching for their ads they'll stop and READ something that may just interest them. Obviously, you need to make sure they're getting the "right" type of printed materials to search from. I needn't say more.
Magazines: Collect one copy of every magazine published. Or, whittle down the collection and collect one copy of all magazines on a specific subject. This project will take some time, and a little investment. However, it is possible if you have the child request in writing one copy of a publisher's magazine explaining to the publisher his/her project they'll provide a copy for free. And a nice thank you letter to follow up this gift will teach the child good manners.
Unusual Catalogs: These are specific to things that may interest the child. For example, I have just received a really neat catalog of farm toys. Every imaginable tractor, and piece of farm equipment, comes in miniature versions for young farmer to play with. Go to the library with the child and search together for catalogs of subjects that will interest the child. At worst, he/she might learn about saving up for an item desperately desired from such a catalog. And then, there's the lesson of patience while waiting for it to come in the mail!
Calendars: Recent privies year's calendars pretty and inexpensive.
Foreign Postal Stamps: These stamps can be found for very reasonable prices. I have found an outlet at my local Sears store. I can purchase a set of stamps for under $3.00 and often for under $1.00. We like collecting Christmas stamps from around the world, as well as rare animals and dolls. There are hundreds of topics including costumes, dwellings, birds, flags, and famous people.
Coloring Books: There are many themes a child can choose to collect. Barbie, Disney, cartoon characters, and angels are just a few.
Sewing or Quilting Patterns: Patterns for dolls, doll clothes, stuffed animals and quilts. Look for these at thrift store and yard sales.
Ticket Stubs: Collect these from the places you visit or from friends and relatives who would like to tell you the details of their tickets.
Pictures of Clothing Styles: For the budding fashion designer, search old magazines and books for pictures of foreign costumes or the history of clothing in the United States. Organize them with pertinent information regarding each individual picture.
Well, I guess I've pretty much covered the tree as a resource for collectibles, except for maybe Origami. Here are a few more easy on your wallet ideas:
Fabrics/Cloths: Small pieces or scraps
Keys: Your local key maker may have unusable returns
Soaps: Those little shapes you find in bath shops and hotels
Candles: Ah, only for the OLDER kids please!
Magnets: A cookie sheet will free up the front of mom's fridge
Colored Glass: Placed in the sun refract beautifully.
Spoons: Real ones - not the tourist type
Cookie Cutters: Use them (then send me some cookies!)
Pens: Go for the free advertising gimmies
Doll Shoes: Yep, just the shoes! Big, little and miniature.
Kites: As in "Let's go fly...."
Buttons: Old and new, too cute buttons abound
Beads: We're talking collecting here not making jewelry
Cups & Glasses: Various vacation spots, cartoon, jelly, etc.
Feathers: Small kids LOVE feathers - they tickle!
Spools of Thread: Colors Colors Colors
Lace: small pieces - Not $ antique - but will be someday!
Nails and Screws: For the handy, construction-type kid
Teas and Spices: Use them with your homemade cookies
Nesting Items: Like dolls that fit inside each other
Handmade Dolls: Christmas Bazaars are a good source
Folk Tales, Legends, and Lore: Fairies, Elves and Gnomes
Seeds: Easily obtainable, interesting and inexpensive.
Lastly, you now have an idea of what you might like to introduce your child(ren) to, but how do you display it? I am a great fan of the K.I.S.S. principle with kids -- Keep It Simple Silly! I like a notebook filled with typing paper and construction paper separators and a hole punch. Let your child set up his/her collection. I also like index cards on the small scale and foam core on the larger. Use clear draw liner to cover items if necessary. Index cards can be filed and foam core is sturdy enough to be hung up (In most circumstances).
The point is have fun with what you're doing. Spending time with kids doesn't have to be difficult. I recently heard of one grandmother who makes it a point to spend one-on-one time with each of her grandchildren. She looks for something they can have in common and this makes them feel very special. This grand grandma spent once a month with her granddaughter on a search for the perfect burger (no fast food, either).
What about you out there in cyberspace? What do you collect that may be out of the ordinary? Drop by our "Feedback" area and let us all in on your special collection.