Getting kids started takes a little fun

A special article by local resident Ron Tabbert

  • Sep. 13, 2011 8:00 p.m.

Ron Tabbert

Special to the Star

A pastor colleague who enjoyed archery told of his efforts to introduce his son to the sport.  After a couple shots at the target in the basement, the boy wanted to move on.  Finally Dad decided to make a new target with a bigger bull’s eye.  And, yes, it worked.  Sometimes we expect beginners to play the game the same way more experienced players do.

Parents face a bit of a dilemma.  Some would like their girls to play piano, their boys to play hockey.  But Junior or Miss may prefer tropical fish or, wonder of wonders, our national sport, lacrosse.  It would seem to me the challenge is to expose them to as many things as possible and see what takes, notwithstanding all the sports, hobbies, arts, and other interests out there.

Though I know collectors who can be very persnickety, (is that a word?  Google it.), kids with their different attention spans and interests could find that rather off-putting, (that is a word!).  Hobbies are supposed to be FUN.  I’ve been collecting for 55 years this Christmas.  It all started with Grandma’s Christmas card to our family.  In those days, Mom and Gram wrote every week, so there were lots of letters with lots of stamps.  And I still enjoy seeing what’s on my mail.

There are an assortment of ”stamp camps” and after-school clubs and efforts by clubs to get kids interested in stamps.  Often we are tempted to sit kids down and “tell” them about stamps, and collecting.  Personally, I’ve always felt thinky-talkie methods don’t work as well as feely-doey methods.  Teachers would recognize that as inductive over deductive teaching.  It reminds me of that story about joining the Navy.  If you can’t swim, they throw you in the ocean and say, “learn.”  It certainly gives you motive.

So, I think it’s better to create opportunities for exploration and let the kids grow from there.  Keep it FUN.  Make sure the bull’s eye is big enough.  First, I set out several boxes of stamps and tell them to take two from each, and be sure they can tell why they chose those stamps.  Over the years, kids have said everything from, “It’s pretty,” to “my Dad came from Denmark.”  One boy chose all red stamps.  Another chose as many copies of the exact same stamp as he could find.

With each club meeting or get-together, then, I introduce something new to spark another interest:  covers (envelopes with stamp and cancel and maybe a cachet design), stamps with secret markings, micro-printing, phosphorescent ink, unique shapes, scratch-and-sniff ink, etc.  Along the way if there are teachable moments and the kids discover the need for tongs to handle the stamps, a stock book or album to put them in, and the other tools of the trade. I have developed a Bingo-style game to introduce them to new concepts, as well.  Damaged stamps are glued to cards and stamp-related prizes are prepared.  The caller asks for various types of stamps:  a stamp with two straight edges on opposite sides (coil), a triangle or rhomboid (Google it.), a topical (fish, bird, train, the list is endless), a cancelled stamp, a mint (never cancelled) stamp, etc.  We learn as we play, and it’s a game they can use themselves and teach each other.

The temptation for a more experienced collector is to say, “No, you do it this way.  Don’t collect that.  Collect this.”  Where would new ideas or inventions come from if that line controlled history?  Every collection is the kingdom of the collector.  She sets her or his own goals and any interest is “right.”

Personally, I am mostly interested in graphic art.  It took me fifteen years of collecting stamps before I realized it wasn’t the stamps but the design and printing that interested me.  As a result, I also started a logo collection and files of similar art.   I think that keeps me interested in the beginning aspects of collecting.  Some would say it’s just the pretty pictures and colour.  OK, maybe so.  But it’s my interest.

Generally, I suspect stamp collectors are seen as people interested in details and minutiae (that’s a word, too!).  We joke about it as “fly-speck” philately.  If that’s your thing, HAVE FUN.  Don’t let anyone tell you how or what to collect.  You’re the King or Queen of your collection.

The Golden Stamp Club will meet next at 3 p.m., Sunday, September 18 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 909 Ninth St., Golden.  Questions?  Call Ron at 250-344-5939 or .


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