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Today's Family Magazine

Building Connections Through Collections

Littlest Pet Shop Sea Turtle w/ Surfboard

By Stacy Turner

Children have more of a tendency to be natural collectors than adults, according to psychologists.  Experts also note that building collections have many valuable benefits, like helping teach kids responsibility, budgeting and sharing experiences.  From stacks of stickers or baseball cards to toy figures or vintage cameras, sharing what we love brings joy.  And getting absorbed in collections can help reduce anxiety, making this activity worthwhile for accumulators of all ages. 

But amassing collections is a personal decision, something we learned when Grandma decided that each granddaughter should receive a porcelain doll on their birthday.  As they opened their gifts, Grandma shared memories of the beautiful dolls she coveted as a girl and gushed over the fancy hairdos and pretty dresses of the ones she gifted them.  While they thanked Grandma for the gesture, the girls were at an age where they were no longer interested in dolls.  Apparently, Grandma was unaware of all the horror films featuring lifelike dolls.  We were all put on edge by lifeless eyes that popped open each time a doll was picked up. 

No one could sleep a wink until each “creepy” doll was packaged up and safely stored on a shelf in the basement, far away from their bedrooms.  Much later while spring cleaning we found them again, plotting together on the shelf, looking as frightening as we all remembered.  On a whim, my husband decided to post them on eBay to see if anyone might want them.  We were shocked and amazed at all the interest they received.  People from all over asked questions about their skin – porcelain, and their hair – was it real?  And very specific questions about their clothing.  In the end, each doll ended up finding her way into the hands of someone who really wanted her, which I think was Grandma’s goal.  And our girls then began collecting things that were meaningful to them.

When they were younger, they amassed quite a collection of Littlest Pet Shop (LPS) toys – those small, brightly colored plastic animals with oversized noggins and adorable eyes.  Figures and their accessories, including a large pet shop and clubhouse were the ideal gift at many Christmases and birthdays.  My girls even inherited some ‘vintage’ figures from their older cousins.  They could spend long stretches of time playing indoors with their collection of pets.  One warm morning, the girls decided to take their plastic turtles outside to “swim” through the stream of spring run-off that ran through the pipe under our driveway.  The one at the start, usually the eldest, started the 3-2-1 countdown with the younger joining in.  At three, a turtle would be launched through the tunnel, and into my younger daughter’s waiting hands.  It worked quite well until the rainwater slowed and the toy’s tiny magnet in the foot attached to the metal pipe somewhere underground.  With adult intervention and strategic work with the garden hose, they were able to free the pet.  The excitement of the dramatic rescue operation was something they talked about for days afterward. 

In high school, our oldest took an interest in plants and her bedroom windowsills – the ideal place to propagate plants and cuttings – sprouted forth with life.  With all manner of small pots and trays covering every sunny surface, it was controlled chaos in an otherwise orderly space.  As a bonus, as she tended plants, my daughter was rewarded with cuttings to share with friends and family.  About a month before she left for college, she began the arduous task of selecting just two special plants to take to college.  Since she’d be sharing the tiny dorm with a roommate, she couldn’t commandeer the entire windowsill for her family of plants.  She entrusted a handful of pots to her sister and me with specific instructions for their care and upkeep.  She adopted out the remaining plant babies to friends, each with a handwritten card that marked out when to water them.  I’m not sure how her friends’ plants are faring, but here at home, her little buddies are thriving.  It seems my daughter’s green thumb has rubbed off on us, proving that the best part of collecting happens when you can share it. 

Although your kids may not have much to say about their school day, they’ll have a lot to say if you ask about that thing they’re super excited about.  Why not make time to get on the floor with your kids to play Paw Patrol?  Think what you might gain if you take an interest in the things they enjoy.  They may even want to hear about some of the things you like, too.  Maybe liven up a rainy weekend by dusting off that stack of puzzles, board games, vintage video games or movies you’ve collected to entertain your family. Whether you’re the collector or you can learn about someone else’s interests, the best collections are those shared with ones you love.  And if creepy dolls are your thing, I hear you can find some great ones online.