Most children seem to collect something or several somethings during their years at home. Many adults continue these collections or add new ones. There must be something about human nature that enjoys collecting things. I don’t think it is necessarily motivated by greed, because there are some rather strange collections out there. My guess is that it has more to do with the “thrill of the chase” or the excitement of accomplishing a goal.
Collections can teach your child a lot of godly lessons. She can learn how to manage her money well, how to care for things she has been blessed with and how to be a good steward in general. Many children start out collecting rocks, stamps, coins or other every day items. What if we encouraged our children to start a different kind of collection? One that would still fulfill many of their collection needs and teach some additional godly lessons.
Service is such an important part of God’s message. Scripture after scripture commands us to help care for those around us. Service is also an important part of sharing our faith. I don’t want to listen to anyone talk about anything if I am starving or ill from drinking unclean water. On the other hand, if you find healthy drinking water for me, but don’t share the Gospel, we have both missed an eternal opportunity.
The great thing about children is that they absolutely love to help other people. They get so excited making a difference. The best thing about collecting things for other people is that your child doesn’t need to spend any money (although they can). Many charities want used items or items your child can find as he walks along the sidewalk.
Collecting can also teach your child many important life skills. As their collecting becomes more involved, they will need to learn how to organize items and tasks well. Asking other people to help them with their collections can improve manners, public speaking, writing and a host of other important skills. Teachers will tell you that these are many of the same skills they try to develop in their students for classroom success.
I checked on the internet and found some of the more interesting collections your child could start. As things change so quickly, please do your own research on these charities before starting. Make sure you support their mission statements and that there are no current complaints about the organization. You will also want to make sure you understand all of their needs accurately. Some charities are very specific about the type and quality of the items they accept.
Here are a few of the possibilities to explore with your child (in no particular order):
- Halloween Candy – Have a lot of extra candy? Are the neighbors pushing candy on everyone the day after Halloween? Have your child do a second sweep the day after Halloween and ask your neighbors to donate their leftovers. Operation Gratitude (operationgratitude.com) accepts candy donations and sends them to U.S. soldiers as part of care packages. Many dentists and orthodontists around the country have agreed to be drop off points, or go to the website and ship it directly to the organization.
- Old Sneakers – Be honest. How many of us have old raggedy sneakers around our houses, just in case we need them one day? Have your child collect all of those old pairs and the old sneakers of family and friends. Take them to any Nike or Converse store. Their foundation will use the recycled materials from the shoes to build playgrounds in underprivileged areas.
- Pop-tops – The Ronald McDonald House needs pop-tops from cans to fund many of their programs benefitting families of children hospitalized away from home. Pop-tops can now be found on soup, meat, fruit and even tennis ball cans. Be sure your child understands your safety rules for collecting pop-tops. There is a chance they can be cut removing them from lids if they are not careful. Check your local children’s hospital for the closest Ronald McDonald House to you.
- Books and Magazines – Even with e-books, most of us still have plenty of paper books and magazines around our houses. Many local public libraries seek donations which they then re-sell to raise funds for library needs. Or, your child can collect books for children in Africa (booksforafrica.org). If you live in Atlanta, GA or St. Paul, MN, you can drop the donations at their facilities. They will also accept books shipped to them.
- Pennies – Children love finding change on sidewalks and in parking lots. Encourage them to start a special collection of found change. Once the container is full, they can donate it to their favorite charity. Many organizations even have special coin cans for that very purpose. (Make the rules clear, as many a parent has suddenly found all of the change in the house disappearing!)
- Canned Foods – Many churches, food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations need donations of non-perishable foods. Your child can clip coupons, watch for sales and learn many savvy shopping skills while working on this collection.
- Old Towels – Another secret stash in many houses is the pile of worn out towels waiting for the next flood. Cut down the size of your stack and let your child ask others for their worn out towels. Canine Assistants (canineassistants.org) trains dogs to assist people who have a variety of disabilities. They need used towels to care for the dogs they are training.
- Stuffed Animals – Many children already have a very large collection of stuffed animals. They can share those with children who are sad and hurting. Contact local shelters that serve women and children or send them to Loving Hugs (lovinghugs.org). They accept walk-in donations in the Denver area or you can ship to them. (They have very strict guidelines, so please read them carefully.)
- Socks, mittens, boots, etc. – Children often grow out of items before they show much wear. Many organizations will take new or used clothing donations. Most of us need to weed out a few things periodically, so this can be an on-going project (especially for a fashionista!).
Encourage your child to be creative with her collection. What are some fun, creative ways to get the word to other people who can help? Teach him how to plan a timetable for collecting and then getting the items to the charity. Have fun with it and celebrate the process more than the results. As you plot and plan, don’t forget to read all of the scriptures about service in the Bible. You will be surprised how much instruction there is about who, how and why we are to serve. If you come across another creative collection for others, let me know by commenting here or e-mailing me. I will share your ideas with everyone in a future post.