As a child, my parents didn’t allow me to collect sticker albums. At school not being allowed to collect “Garbage Pail Kids” stickers singled me out as “uncool”. With hindsight, my parents were probably right for that collection! In 2022, we completed Spar’s Stickermania collection and Billa’s albums. A few months later and our son is still interested in them (the subject matter helps!) The accompanying Stickermania app (unfortunately not available for Kindle Fire) also has good educational games. Supermarket collections involve free packs of stickers as you shop. You can also buy sticker packs, but we resisted this option and sat out the FIFA World Cup album. Sadly, there is no fixed date yet for the 2023 Stickermania album.
What purpose do the stickers have, and what educational value?
Some people question their educational merit. For our son, it showed his ability to memorise pictures, and recall which stickers he had, based on their design (while I needed post-it notes, Excel lists and WhatsApp!). Leftover stickers, once everyone has finished their albums, are used in drawing and creative projects (even for labelling laundry bins!). As Alexander started school, Billa stickers were used to help nurture social skills in his class. He made friends through swapping stickers (he took a few stickers into class each day).
Filling pages and “runs” of stickers develop awareness of seriation (the forming of series) and understanding numerical order (e.g. sorting the swaps). Football stickers with team badges or flags introduce and reinforce the concepts of “same” or “different” and “grouping”. For older children, sticker collecting can be a hands-on way to explain combinations, permutations, and probability (useful backup for maths!), and basic statistical functions.
Can “swapping” also be educational?
Older children will manage their swaps themselves, but at Kindergarten age, it remains parent-led. A WhatsApp group ensured five or six happy collectors all completing the album (thanks if you helped us find those elusive stickers!). Younger children don’t get so much out of the experience, whereas older children can learn about swapping. Parental oversight is recommended to avoid your child returning home upset and empty-handed. One tip supervised swapping (e.g. at the end of the kindergarten/school day), rather than letting your child have sole discretion over swaps.
How do I overcome the gamification side of collecting?
For some, completing an album is a competition or race. A couple of months later, no-one remembers who was first or last! A degree of gamification is therefore unavoidable. We “trickle released” sticker packs to ensure our son had something to look forward to (e.g. one new pack of stickers after school or the doctor, rather than 20 packs in one go). This helped manage disappointment/expectations if no “new” stickers were in the pack.
How can we nurture collecting as a habit?
“Slowly and steadily” is better than a “quick fix” approach for habit building. Habit building helps cement routines for your child (e.g. taking off clothes and hanging them up, with a pack of stickers as a reward). Packs of stickers are good incentives/rewards (local doctor’s surgeries also appreciate left-over stickers to hand out as rewards!)
What should I bear in mind about sticker collecting?
Remember the cost factor where sticker packs are bought separately (swapping is not perfectly efficient!) Don’t automatically dismiss collecting an album, but actively involve your child to weigh up the cost (and get them to do the maths themselves) and potential alternatives. This helps teach about the value of money. Continuing active parental involvement also sustains their interest.
What else can we collect?
I advocate coin collecting – and recommend collecting Euro coins, commemorative two Euro coins, and occasionally find “rarer” coins in my change. In 2023, why not collect the new Croatian euro coins! The collection can always be spent later and can be a gateway to becoming interested in other countries (and nurturing travel!). Stamp collecting has lost some of its appeal as stamps are often self-adhesive and less post is sent. Scrapbooking might be a good alternative, and helps with precision and motor skills (e.g. using scissors), and can also be a source of foreign language reading material. If you are only staying in Austria short-term, a scrapbook of a child’s stay in Austria is a great idea. It provides your child with physical memories of where they lived. Well curated and collated scrapbooks are a more tangible alternative to digital memories and help with show and tell presentations in the future.
Mike Bailey has lived in Vienna since 2000, and is an in-house translator specialising in financial markets supervision, and married father of three children (Alex and twins George and Charlotte). He is actively involved with British in Austria, although he is now a proud Austrian citizen.