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Does your child have a collection?  Pokemon.  Dinosaur knowledge.  Stuffed animals.  Rocks. The complete set of just about anything.

Most kids do collect something. This behavior is so common that we might wonder why. Let’s take a look.

Collecting things fits in with children’s growing intellectual abilities. By making a collection, kids provide themselves with practice in several key thinking skills.

First, they practice the ability to classify and group things. When something is a member of a collection but something else is not, kids make decisions about attributes of objects. This is a key mathematical skill that is essential for scientific thinking as well. Kids group objects within their collection, too, based on characteristics that go together.

Second, having a collection exercises a child’s ability to see distinctions. This is another important skill that comes into play especially in reading – the ability to see differences between similar words.  So when your child bores you completely with a long discourse about the evolved forms of Pokemon characters or the differences in rocks or leaves or insects, that’s a good thing. Being able to see fine differences is an essential cognitive skill.

Third, collecting something provides a chance to enjoy the beauty, diversity, and unusual qualities of particular examples in the collection. This sense of wonder expands a child’s vision of the world and can contribute to a spiritual connection. Noticing the iridescence of bird plumage, the workmanship on a Barbie outfit, or the cleverness of a Lego creation – these are opportunities to marvel and step outside the everyday.

And finally, of course, having a collection can be an exercise in acquisitiveness. A collection can exist for its own sake, in fact, most collections do. So acquiring a new member of the collection is seen as good all by itself, even if the new member is not very attractive or interesting. Many kids want to “collect them all,” as marketers well know, so that adding to the collection achieves a feeling of closure or completeness.

Kids eventually outgrow a particular collection, though maybe not the impulse to collect. And that’s all right. Only if collecting seems filled with anxiety, so that it actually makes the child unhappy, is collecting a concern for parents.

Encouraging a collection is a good way to encourage thinking skills. And collecting  – or enjoying your child’s collecting impulse – can be fun for the whole family. Did you have a collection as a child? Maybe it’s time to pick that up again.


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.