If you are the owner of a child that is obsessed with dinosaurs then you probably already know just how many complex names and facts a child can learn and recite. Perhaps you have wondered If only there was a way to expand that self propelled learning potential to cover more than just paleontological pursuits. Well I have a time tested technique that I’m sure will get your stamp of approval….
My stamp collection began about the same time I started primary school. I was ushered into the hobby by my Grandmother and took to it like a duck to water. While other children were amassing armies of GI Joes, Ninja Turtles and hitting each other with slap bracelets; I was pursuing philately. In those early formative years it was a fantastic avenue for exploring new topics and learning about the world.
Now with emails replacing letters, postal services cutting back, and veteran collectors increasingly mounting themselves into the great album in the sky, stamp collecting is entering an age of uncertainty. But it isn’t too late for new collectors to pick up the hobby. Here are some useful subjects that children can learn about through collecting stamps.
Geography – As a child one of my favourite rainy afternoon activities was to slowly trace a map of the world onto paper and then colour in all the countries that I had stamps from. I quickly learned to recognize the names of different countries and their relationship with each other. The Soviet Union was the big country at the top of the map that along with the British Commonwealth used up lots of red pens. Greenland was always an enigma, the choice of colour was obvious but I never had a stamp from there so had to keep it blank. At a very early age it helped me visualize my home country’s place in the world.
History – Painful lessons were learned trying to find countries to colour in only to look them up in the Encyclopedia to discover they no longer existed. For a ten year it old it was a revelation to discover that countries could disappear like that and of course it begged the most common of childish questions… why?
Stamps reflect the changes in the world. They tell the story of the rise and fall of empires, of the creation of new countries, of war and of what different countries valued through their history. I quickly learned that here in New Zealand the most favourite thing to put on the early stamps were Queens and Kings. From 1950 onwards… not so much. In the 1940’s in Germany for some reason there was an obsession with a guy that kind of looked like Charlie Chaplin, only a lot more serious looking.
Thematics – The collecting of stamps by theme instead of by country is called thematic collecting. Pictorial stamps cover every kind of subject imaginable. Dinosaurs, aircraft, birthday cakes, flowers, mountains, explorers, you name it! One of my first stamp related memories is being given some stamps from New Zealand’s 1988 issue on whales. Over two decades later and I still have a healthy interest in marine biology.
If you can encourage a child to be as passionate about collecting perforated pictures of the world as they are about collecting pokemon then all kinds of interests might develop from what they discover.
What do you think? Does anyone have any memories of collecting stamps as a child? Or any other items that they encourage their child to collect?
© Lemuel Lyes