Children's treasured collections store valuable lessons

December 20, 1992|By Ro Logrippo and Antonio F. Torrice | Ro Logrippo and Antonio F. Torrice,Contributing Writers

Whatever the initial motivation, sooner or later children savor the experience of accumulating what they consider to be treasures: baseball cards and stickers, miniatures and dolls, stuffed animals and action figures. These are just a handful of items that a child of the '90s might include on a "Most Wanted" list of stuff worth hoarding. Chances are, the holidays will welcome a few additions to your household, leaving you wondering how to hoard all the new arrivals -- not to mention the old ones!

Fostering interest in your child's favorite objects is one way to teach children appreciation for special things. Outdoor finds, such as rocks and leaves, provide a way to study nature and instill a respect for planet Earth. Collecting them on trips makes travel more adventurous, stimulating a child's wonder at new places and new pleasures.

Store-bought collectibles, on the other hand, teach children about the dollars and cents of everyday living. If acquired with their own spending money, such items instill not only the value of saving, but the satisfaction of owning something they purchased.

Just as exciting to a child as building a collection is showing it off. It's important for parents to allow some treasures to be within view. Seeing favored objects rekindles memories of summer vacations or school friends, thereby reassuring a child of the relationship each one has to the world outside.

If display space in a child's room is already at a premium, Mom's and Dad's ingenuity can come in handy.

To avoid the possibility of clutter, let the cast of trinkets and trophies climb the walls. Even narrow space can be pressed into duty by cutting and fitting shelves to fit it, and filling them with tiny toys and other whatnots. Hang a mirror that reflects the display, and you double the pleasure of a young collector who can now enjoy his or her possessions from several vantage points.

If vertical shelf space is out of the question, consider horizontal space. Like the plate rack that may have lined a high wall in grandmother's kitchen, a narrow shelf can work wonders in a child's room. Should you choose a wrap-around shelf for every wall or just over the windows, special dolls and other doodads can dance around every side of the room. Since most of the items here will be out of the child's reach, however, be sure to consult the one who owns them to determine which possessions will keep the ceiling company.

Showing off small things

Stickers, baseball cards and other small stuff a child gathers may be too numerous to keep in sight. Yet not all these goodies need to be tucked away in a shoe box or album.

Satisfy the urge to show off these acquisitions by allowing a child to select a few favorites. Arrange memorabilia on a desk or other flat surface, and cover with clear plastic or tempered glass with polished edges. See-through coverings protect not only cherished mementos but the furniture.

For very small items, such as postage stamps, consider displaying a few in Plexiglas box frames. This treatment enables a child to change the arrangement often and easily while still preserving valued acquisitions. For a rare stamp or two, a permanent frame may be more dedirable.

Pictures and posters

Family photographs, school pictures and celebrity posters often predominate in a child's world. If that's the case in your home, consider these options for display.

* Turn one wall into a mini gallery by pinning up floor-to-ceiling fiberboard to keep the wall free from too many push-pin holes. To add punch, cover the board in a colorful sheet or other fabric that your child chooses.

* Hang corkboard or a large bulletin board on the back of a door, devoting it exclusively to snapshots and similar items. Please note: In a very young child's room, use the same space for a magnetized surface to avoid the danger from the thumbtacks or stick pins that other boards require.

* Illuminate the gallery with a night light so that friendly faces provide extra security for a sleeper fearful of the dark.

Accessibility to the rescue

As an adult helping a young person map out his or her private territory, remember the need for easy access to belongings. If adjustable shelves are part of the scene, be sure they are placed within the reach of the child using them.

Whether grown-up or growing up, nothing is more frustrating than the inability to use what's yours because it's out of reach. Children who find it hard to reach their possessions will act out their frustrations, keeping things in disarray.

An exception to this rule is valuable treasures, such as antique dolls or toys, which are meant for admiring from afar. A see-through display case perched on high may be the answer, since it will prevent inquisitive hands from dissecting an heirloom and keep such treasures dust-free.

A matter of maintenance

Promoting a sense of order in a child's room is very important, but don't get so caught up in the exercise that you neglect to consider your child's wishes.

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