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How to Introduce Children to Antiquing - Part II

From a parent’s point of view, antiquing with children has some compelling arguments. One is getting them away from television and computer screens, another is involving the whole family in the same activity.  I also see it as an opportunity to teach children about design, art and culture, knowledge that will serve them well throughout life. Yet another aspect is an opportunity to talk with kids about money and finance, an aspect where many of us fall down. Sure, we tell our children they have to get an education and a job, but do we talk about financial planning in any way? We may teach thrift by getting them a piggy bank or a bank account, but how about investment?

This post isn’t intended as professional advice; it’s meant to get you thinking about some possibilities.

The Antique Shop

Visiting an antique shop with very young children is probably not a great idea, particularly the sort of crowded shop where valuables are on low tables and shelves and easily knocked off. But if they have high counters, you can teach children to ‘look but not touch’ as the dealer shows you items. Please teach your children good manners in a shop in a constructive, positive way. Do not shout ‘that’s expensive! Put it down!’ For one thing, a shock will likely make the child drop whatever it is; for another, it seems to me that that idea simply tells a child ‘that’s too good for the likes of you!’ or ‘people like us don’t buy that sort of thing’.  Rather, say things like ‘Isn’t that pretty? When you’re a grown up you’ll be able to afford things like that.’

Children must be supervised
at all times in an antique shop

The Antiques Fair 

The guidelines to be used in a shop are even more important at an antiques fair.  It is likely that exhibitors have brought their very best merchandise, and the sound of something breaking is not one that any of us want to hear, nor do you want the bill!

I do not recommend taking very small children; they get bored and they tire easily. Interestingly, though, I met many school-aged children at the recent Canberra Seasonal Antiques Fair who absolutely love antiques. I couldn't believe it!  These kids watch Antiques Roadshow and Bargain Hunt religiously and are facinated with old wares.

In my unscientific sampling, girls had a vaguer, broader selection of items they were interested in; often anything to do with animals, fairies and princesses, which leaves them open to a wide range of glass, ceramics, sculpture and Fine Art.

Boys, however, could get very specific: one utterly charming fellow told me he liked walking canes and opera glasses!

An antiques fair can be a great source of information for both you and your children, but remember that people are people: Some people love children, some people do not. Many dealers are delighted to talk with people; some just want a sale. Bear in mind that selling is, after all, the reason most vendors are there, so if you just want to look, it's best not to interrupt if the stall holders are busy or trying to close a deal.  You will be most successful if you pop in when things are slow and say something like 'May we browse?' or 'Just having a look, is that all right?' You'll usually find that people are happy to help; if they're not, don't sweat it, smile and move along.

Caring for Antiques

Another way to instruct children in the value of antiques and collectables is to allow them the care of them. For example, my grandmother ‘allowed’ me to polish her silver and Windex® the glass baubles, bobeches and prisms that hung from the glitzy tables, lamps and chandeliers she loved. It was to our mutual benefit; Grandma readily admitted that she hated doing such chores herself, while I absolutely loved such fiddling about.

A sturdy, cheaply-bought stool can give a child access to a table or sink, and even quite a young child can stand at the sink while a parent stands behind and lines the sink with a dish towel, and the child can splash about while Mum or Dad cleans the glass or china (okay, maybe not your best china, but....) 

Sure, this will likely increase your cleaning time by a bit, but what is that compared to the quality time you spend together?  These are the sorts of joyful memories that last a lifetime.

Aleta Curry is a writer and historian, and an accredited antiques dealer and valuer from NSW, Australia.  She and her husband Martin write extensively about antiques and collectables, and run the successful Aleta’s Antiques.  Martin and Aleta love sharing their knowledge and are committed to Integrity in Antiquing.  Aleta blogs at Aleta’s Arty Facts.


Issa said...

One of the reasons I'm discouraged to purchase any antiques for my family is that it's not child-friendly.. or the children are too harsh on it. :)

Thanks for this guide. I'd probably reconsider collecting. :)

that's life! said...

Hello, Issa, and thanks so much for that comment.

Well, you probably wouldn't want to leave the tots alone with the Pinner Vase, I'll agree, but there are a lot of antiques that would have less dire consequences if there were an accidental breakage!

I can remember my first antiques: my mother's Barbie dolls, and a blue-and-white miniature china set.

I never broke a single pieceof it!

Eyewitness said...

I just read your article on google.

At least, now I know what an antique really is.

And also that I should not not use this word for a person unless I am well prepared for handle the consequences.

But was a little confused about old coins I have of from grandmothers collection. Are these also considered in antiques?

One of them shows manufacturing date 1908. Can being that much old bring a coin into the category of antiques?

I am subscribing to the future comments hope I will get a reply.

Best Wishes

Ibn Hanif

Makkah, K.S.A

that's life! said...

Hi Ibn!

Thanks so much for reading my article, and thanks even more for visiting my blog and letting me know!

Yes, old coins of that age (1908) would be considered antiques, and very old coins (from the Ancient Era) are antiquities.

The study or trade in coins is part of the field of numismatics, the study of money.

I hope I have been helpful.


Eyewitness said...

Thanks for replying, the info you shared certainly helped.

Best Wishes!

Kitty said...

Very informative post on antiques...
like Issa said, I'm also always reluctant to purchase any antiques though I love to visit and check those antiques. As always for me, my house is not a safe and secured place for such antiques, but after reading your post I would like to rethink over it :)

that's life! said...

Thanks, Kitty!

I don't think you're alone. Most of us don't think of our homes as being the safest place for antiques, and indeed, for top-range articles, they might not be.

BUT there is a wide range of everyday antiques!

You've reminded me of something: I think it's time for a post on The Butter Dish Incident .

Thanks so much for your comments; they are truly appreciated!

that's life! said...

I followed this post up with: http://www.aletasartifacts.com/2011/09/antiques-for-everyday-butter-dish.html

Antiquing is not just for children ;)

Gillette said...

How can I know if the antique that I'm checking on it real and not fake...? I'm not an antique collector, I'm not really aware how to check it, but I like it a lot... The culture and history that one antique holds... Amazing!

Lette's Haven

that's life! said...

Hi Gillette,

That's an excellent question, and one that plagues many of us, amateur and professional alike. The answer is knowledge and experience, which of course people who are new to antiques do not have. So you have to be able to trust the vendor.

In a future post, I'll be writing about some clues one can look out for.

Darjeeling Info said...

really informative on antique how to cole it Darjeeling

Cwatts said...

I promise I'm almost done marveling. Seriously though, that was a treatise on motherhood, tact in a sales situation, and a strong case for involving children in the activity. As I read the comments, even without looking at the name of its author, I find that yours have buoyancy. As I read them, the maternal and optimistic inner voice comes out. OK. I'm done. Until I read part one, that is. Ha!

that's life! said...

Don't you dare apologise, C, marvel away!

I love it!