I use flocks and herds and collections to entice young children to play with me. One reason is that collections are intrinsically interesting. There must be some kind of a collector gene in our DNA because we are all drawn to collections. Even more importantly, once you have a child’s attention with your collection, there are so many ways you can play with a group of—well, anything.
The gaggle of geese or menagerie of Beanie Baby animals or set of colored markers works better for conversation if they vary in some interesting ways. Below is a set similar to the collection I use:
I often set Beanie Baby Animals all in a row because it is easier for a child to see that there is a collection this way in the same way that you might line up a collection of photos on the wall for visual effect. But groups are interesting too. Sometimes I can’t put the whole collection out at all because for some children a group of inviting things leads to a strong hoarding instinct and the child will need to gather and hold the collection. Once your child has the collection in his or her possession, the possibility for playing together with the collection is often over as you will have to wrestle them away to do anything else and the fun factor has gone to negative ten. Sometimes I use a high shelf on the wall to set the collection on so the child can see it but not get it all at once. This is such a good strategy that I suggest all families put a high shelf on the wall in the room where they play. Sometimes I take pictures of all the items in the collections and keep the real collection hidden away until needed allowing us to discuss and assemble the collection using the photos as a point of reference.
Many games that can be played with a collection are based upon 1) getting the collection to your child item by item in some interesting way, 2) doing something interesting with each item, 3) taking each item away in some interesting way. One child that I knew (and whose mom reads this blog so it will be interesting if she remembers this) loved long skinny things so I started collecting pens. He would pick up a picture of a cool pen and then I would get it for him. We would draw something quick with each pen and then he would hold it and study it, which is what he really wanted to do. I would say Bye Bye to the pen, naming it again, then putting it away. We had a little trouble with this last part for several days as giving each one up was hard but it got to be fun because he knew what was next. I quickly offered pictures of other cool pens and he selected the next one and we did it all again. I saved his favorite pen for last as he would never have given that one up quickly enough to make the game move forward at a good pace.
With a child who had more language, we might have drawn together for much longer, talking about what we were drawing and I might have set each pen upright after we were finished in a long snake of play doh so that he or she could see the collection growing pen by pen.
We can gather a collection with hide and find games or collect them by asking family members for items in the collection or send each one under a door to the child—there are endless ways to get the collection to the child in an interesting way. The items can be called, named, scolded, used, analyzed, rated, sorted, washed, displayed, photographed, lost, found, altered, wrapped, given, or hidden. The only limitation on what you do with a collection is the scope of your imagination.
March, 2009 Posts will include a Duck Collection Set of Games.