For a few years we’ve touted the importance of family bonding. We’ve found that games provide an excellent opportunity to connect with family members while improving social skills, developing strategic thinking and learning sportsmanship. Although it probably sounds like that’s all we do, our bonding ideas are a lot more well-rounded than only games.
There are all kinds of ways that parents can bond with their children. In addition to board games, we watch TV and movies together as well as play soccer or Frisbee in the yard (or street), work in the yard together and discuss homework. One of the other things we do is collect things together, including attending auctions, shows and conventions.
Starting a collection together is something that can grow and evolve with time and maturity. It may also become a keepsake as the child grows into adulthood and starts a family also.
When our girls were little, we took them to the National Hot Wheels convention in Detroit. It was a fun experience for the entire family. Scott was able to look for new cars for his collection, trade away ones he didn’t have and get some special edition ones in the process. At the same time, the girls were able to race cars, go on scavenger hunts and more. For a toy that is geared at boys, we were able to find a way to make it interesting to them. They each collected some cars of their own. Creating a common collecting interest between parent and child is a great way to connect.
Here are a few examples of other collections to start with your children.
Stamps in general don’t have the same impact as they used to because they aren’t an integral part of a child’s everyday life. However they send thank you notes and the occasional letter and receive mail on their birthdays so it’s something they are familiar with – even at an early age. To begin a stamp collection, it could be as simple as pointing out the stamps that arrive with their card. Ask relatives to send a unique stamp to help pique their interest. Start searching for stamps in a field of their interest – cartoons, sports, toy, airplanes or whatever. Get them a binder to hold them and start collecting together!
Coins and Money
Pennies, nickels, dimes. They’re small, inexpensive and offer at least one new one per year. Start by emptying your purse or piggy bank and let the child dig through to see how many different years they can find. It’s an exercise in counting and tactile skills for young kids so that’s a bonus to this hobby. Math and chronology skills are learned for kids a little older. For older kids, it’s simply the knowledge that it’s money that will drive their interest because they understand the value in and of itself, regardless of what the collector’s value might be. We attend the local coin show with our girls and they enjoy being able to bid on items in the kids’ auction. It has taught them to research the items in the lots and find out more about the history and collectability of various currency and coins.
We have said before that these are one of the most affordable souvenirs available. Whether you travel to a historical location, museum, tourist attraction, theme park, national park or some major shopping mall, you will probably find a machine for pressing coins. We like the pennies and focus on collecting them wherever we go as a family. Of course, we have found them at auctions, coin shows and yard sales and have sometimes added unique ones to our collection. For the cost of a penny and a couple quarters (and a penny passport for storing), you can’t beat it. And the bonding the ensues as you start searching and selecting patterns as a family is fantastic.
Baseball Cards (or other trading cards)
When Scott and I first met, he had a nice baseball card collection. To supplement our just-out-of-college income, we bought, sold and traded sports cards, autographs and memorabilia. It gave us an ever-changing landscape of places to go, people to see and team to root for. We were long from having children at the time but we watched as other parents participated in this hobby together. Take your children to a ball game – of any sport and at any level – to get them interested in collecting. Even minor league teams have trading cards for their athletes.
When the girls were little, they enjoyed digging through the kids’ section at the comic book store and show. They would look for books that interested them and would read some but they didn’t go hog wild. When they got to be tweens and discovered Marvel, things went crazy. Now when we attend a comic book show or event, super heroes are at the top of their list. Anything can be a launching point for a collection. Amazing movies like Captain America and shows like Gotham, Flash or Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are a perfect way to bridge this digital excitement onto paper in the form of comic books. So attend the movies together and watch the shows as a family with the knowledge that it is more than just TV time. As I’ve said… any way that kids can bond with their parents is a foundation worth putting into place.
Rocks, Gems and Minerals
Take your children to someone where they can pan for gems and mineral. There are various places across the country that offer these fun activities that not only are educational but a place to inspire interest in a gem and mineral collection. You can even purchase a kit to pan for gold at home. Locate geology, rock, gem and mineral shows in your area as a way to expand the collections while bonding. Purchase a metal detector and go on your own hunt.
Going way back to early elections, every candidate has offered some kind of advertising trinket to help promote their campaign. There are political buttons and pins, banners and signs, letters and newspaper clippings that make interesting collections. While a young child isn’t likely to appreciate these items as much, someone in junior high or high school may be inspired to learn more about politics if they are immersed in this manner.
As you introduce your children to a variety of subjects and interests, you’re not only creating opportunities to learn but also a platform to connect. As the kids get older, having something in common that brings back good memories will be something everyone can fall back to when conversations get more difficult and families go in different directions.
So take some time to find a collection and build a relationship together with it. Of course, don’t forget that you can also collect board games.
What types of collections do you enjoy?