Do you collect things? I have been collecting since I was a little girl and I fell in love with green glass. Mum and Dad would take me to secondhand shops and let me have a small amount of money to spend. I could not resist the way the light fell across old green glass and the patterns within. I also collected small china animals. My Great Aunty and Uncle would gift me one from their magical china cabinet, each time we visited. I was very small and only have a couple of items left, because many of them broke. I probably played with them, but the activity and joy of this time, stayed with me throughout my life. To this day, I still pick up china animals in op shops and am very partial to china tea cups and pots as well.
My 3 boys have also been collectors, often of commercial, plastic toys. I have felt many times, that supporting some of my children’s collecting habits, went against my principles for a more sustainable life. I still battle this with our youngest, but try to avoid buying new plastic toys as much as possible. Often, I will look for secondhand items for him, or buy books and games, but he does get his own money and does choose to buy some plastic toys still. It is an ongoing debate in our house. To address this at least somewhat, we always donate the toys to op shops when they are no longer loved by him. At least they go on to have another life.
On the other side of this, all three of my boys had phases of coming home from walks with pockets filled to the brim with stones or sticks. When we went to New Zealand, our middle son, then aged about 6 years old, even brought back a bucket of collected stones and rocks on the plane! As an adult I adore collecting things from nature and am especially drawn to seed pods, in particular, the stunning cedar roses that drop from the Deodar Cedar trees around the streets where I live – I know each and every tree and I covet them across Summer, waiting for Autumn, when they will be ready for me to pick. I also collect pine cones from all of my road trips, bringing home pieces of the forests.
But some things are just stupid. There is no need to create them, let alone collect them. The Coles Little Shop campaign has yet again been causing a storm across social media. Not only is this encouraging people to collect small pieces of useless plastic, but it is encouraging children to shop for the packaged goods they are offering. It is growing consumerism and preferencing unhealthy, packaged foods. It is as subtle as a kick in the head. Coles recently stated proudly that they had saved 1.7 billion single-use plastic bags from landfill over the past 12 months and then they do this, again. A change.org petition is appealing to Coles to stop this ridiculous sales campaign and has already gained more than 63,000 signatures to date.
I use plastic every day in the insulin pump that keeps me alive. We have all sorts of plastic in our home, including toys. Plastic is not the enemy here. It is mindless single-use plastic with no purpose, that we are battling. There are so many plastic toys already in the world for kids. It would be great if places like Coles, who have so much power, could lead by example with some alternative ideas. This is just one issue that has taken off, so it is a good one to get attention, but definitely needs to be considered across the board with supermarkets and fast food outlets, and across all of the ways we consume plastic toys. It is a very difficult and emotional topic for many people. Recycling the toys by sending to op shops is a good option, but not all of the little crappy ones given away at shops and fast food outlets will be wanted by kids down the track, unlike things like lego and figures. Refusing these things is the first step. The arguments on social media about children playing shops with these is not really a strong one. We played shops with our kids using the packaging from real food cans and boxes, which were later recycled. So, we can use this opportunity to think more about how we can refuse, reduce, recycle and consider the ways we can play with and grow our children.
Three of the Best Collectibles For Children
Instead of plastic and more consumption, here are three of the best things you can collect with your children.
Spending time with your children and growing memories of experiences with you and others, is the best thing you can give them. From the smallest of moments waking up together each morning and wishing each other a lovely day, to the largest of moments as they grow, make all of them count – for your sake and theirs. Time is the most important gift of all. Memory making comes from spending that time together. It does not have to be huge overseas trips or enormous events. It could be a simple walk around the block, or a game of cards. It could be digging in the garden together, or having a family BBQ on a Sunday. Memories are the dreams that come to you at night, the moment that slips into your head when you smell a flower, or the rain after months of dry. Memories are the feelings you get when you look at old photographs or hold an object gifted to you by a grandparent. Memories are the fabric of your life.
What makes us human? What is it that propelled us into such a position of power on Mother Earth?
Stories teach us to love, to forgive others, to be just and to understand the world. We make up stories even when they don’t really exist, we see them everywhere. Many other traits, like play and tool making and communication, are seen in other animals, but not stories. We love a tale, a yarn, a chat. Read them books, listen to them read, make up stories, share stories of your day around the table, share stories of other people, watch movies together and discuss them afterwards.
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Muriel Rukeyser
Stories are the threads that bind us. They are the history holders and the dream makers. Stories can change the world.
Teach your children well. Teach them about your life, their history, the world, what matters most. Teach them not just facts and reading and writing, but the mysteries of the universe. Teach them to look outwards, to see each life as valuable. Teach them that we don’t control the Universe, we don’t control the world, we don’t control the weather, or time, or anything much really. But, we do control our brains, our hearts and our actions. You are part of it, but you are not all of it, not even close. Make each moment of your little piece of time in this magical, miraculous, universe matter. Collect them all and hold them tight.