| Melissa Rayworth |
EVEN avid collectors will tell you: Stamp collecting is not the flashiest of hobbies. It isn’t trendy. It doesn’t speed past you at the breakneck pace of a video game or offer the manic energy of a Cartoon Network television show.
It rewards patience and persistence, teaching those who embrace it about everything from ancient history to modern graphic design.
And that’s exactly why a growing com-munity of parents and teachers believe it’s a hobby worth encouraging kids to pursue.
At the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, Lisa Dembowski and her colleagues work with more than 14,000 kids each year in person and online, sharing lesson plans with teachers and sending packets of stamps to kids.
Dembowski doesn’t have precise figures, but she has seen an increase in the last couple of years in the number of parents and school groups ordering stamp packets.
TV shows make very rapid demands on children’s attention, while stamp collecting requires more sustained focus. AP
Child development experts say the benefits of stamp collecting are many; the challenge is to get kids started. Cool stamps aren’t arriving in the mailbox much now that ground mail is less common. And few kids know others who are already collecting stamps. So parents and teachers have to start the ball rolling.
Five reasons why they should:
1. Kids can develop patience and focus
Sorting through stamps and building a collection requires “a very different kind of attention” than video games or television do, says Miranda Goodman-Wilson, assistant professor of psychology at Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida. Quick-cut TV shows “make very rapid demands on children’s attention”, she says, while “stamp collecting requires more sustained focus”.
The intricacies of a tiny image printed on a piece of paper, and the story of why that particular image was printed on a stamp, draws kids in, slowing down their racing minds.
“When you’re looking at stamps, you spend a little more time than in our instant-gratification activities,” says Gretchen Moody, director of education at the American Philatelic Society.
2. Kids develop expertise
Child development research has shown that children have an impressive capacity for classifying objects and remembering details if given the opportunity, says Julia Heberle, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. “Children, even young children,” she says, “can accumulate a lot of organised, detailed expert knowledge”.
Goodman-Wilson agrees: Stamp collecting helps even very young kids build categorising and counting skills, and geographic awareness. It can serve as “a natural learning opportunity”, she says.
“As a teaching tool, every stamp has a story to tell,” says another expert. “What country issued the stamp? Does the country still exist? Where in the world is the country located?”
3. Kids discover stunning artwork and intricate graphic design
Stamps were once both useful and beautiful. Today, some of their usefulness has been replaced by email and the Internet. But many remain beautiful, and offer a lesson in expressing what’s important and celebrated in a given culture on the tiniest of canvases.
Kids can try sketching some of the stamps they’ve collected or seen in photos. And Dembowski suggests decorating an envelope related to a given stamp, and then mailing the creation to friends or relatives.
4. Screen time is minimal, and optional
Some kids do hunt for stamps online, and there are collecting apps for Android and Apple devices. But hours spent sifting through a collection of paper stamps connects kids to the physical world. Inter-national collecting is exciting, says Moody, because “they’re holding something from another part of the world in their hands”.
5. A stamp collection can be per-sonalised
“This hobby has no rules,” Dembowski says. “You can collect whatever you want. So you can focus in on one specific topic, like horses” or another subject that a child loves.
For parents seeking to get kids involved, the answer might be as simple as gathering that first batch of stamps and spreading them out on the kitchen table. (AP)