Encouraging the Next Generation of Miniaturists
By Deb Roberts
As miniaturists, we love sharing the little world we create and live in, and we’re especially eager to share it with those we love. The past two decades have seen a decline in the popularity of our hobby and sometimes we wonder what the future will hold for miniatures. Will there be a next generation to whom we can pass on our legacy? Will they share the same passion we have? How do we encourage the love of miniatures in our children?
It’s a proven fact that children love little things. As toddlers, we see them begin to establish their autonomy and imagination by playing with small replicas of items used by their parents and older siblings. For the first five years of their development, it’s of vital importance that children have the opportunity to role play in order to establish their self identity and learn how to fit into the world as they grow. They need endless opportunities to practice social and relationship skills. Of equal importance is the need to have a little world where they are in control and can learn decision making skills. We call it “play”, but in reality, it is practice and preparation for the adults they will become.
In this simulated world, our young children have dolls, cars, toy houses, and building blocks. Not only do these toys provide the socialization practice they need, but they can set the stage for a budding miniaturist. Toys as simple as building blocks provide a foundation for even the youngest toddler as they learn the joys of building their own structures, then adding in their cars and dolls to bring things to life. In a society where children’s toys are often “pre-conceived” and leave little room for imagination, one of the greatest gifts that can be given a small child is a set of simple building blocks and an adult willing to spend time playing and encouraging their imagination. Getting down on the floor with the child, building fanciful structures with block “furniture”…….and then watching the child smash it all down and start over again, teaches a child to value their imagination as well as learning concepts such as cause and effect, social and fine motor skills, and encourages language development. And in addition to all that, your child is building his or her first mini and doing so with a great deal of creativity!
As children reach school age, they move into a world where the focus is on structured learning, group socialization and a whirlwind of physical activity. It is regrettable, but creativity and the arts are no longer given a great deal of focus in formal education. Changes in society have given more priority to technical and concrete concepts, and in that process, abstract learning and creativity do not receive the focus they have in the past. As adults who share in a child’s life, we can fill that gap by encouraging creativity in any way possible. Bearing in mind that school age children have a full calendar and are oriented on instant gratification rather than long term projects, we can provide them with creative opportunities such as room boxes, vignettes and dioramas that bring miniatures into their lives and give them the glorious experience of creating. That experience can be one of learning as a child brings a school book experience to life in a diorama, or it can be a room box or vignette that centers around their current favorites such as a movie, video game or sport. The most important thing to remember when providing an experience like this to a school age child is that the project be appropriate for their age and skill set. A project that is too difficult or complicated will make a child feel frustrated and set them up for failure. Help them plan a project that is stimulating enough to challenge them, but not so difficult that they lose interest or become frustrated. Planning for success ensures that the child will have an experience they want to repeat.
Then there are teenagers. Teens are in an awkward time when they are trying on adult behaviors and have great disdain for anything that might be perceived as childish (or worse yet, something that their parents enjoy!). They are also hyper-sensitive to activities that may not meet with acceptance from their peers. That same peer influence puts a teen’s focus more on blending into the crowd than exploring their own passions. While that doesn’t apply to all teenagers, it is a developmental phase that encompasses the majority of teens and pre-teens in some fashion. Therefore, teens may not be as interested in miniatures as they were earlier in life, or as they may be as they get older. In addition to those factors, teens are also exercising more control over real life and don’t feel the need to have a mini world where they can be in control. However, for some teens, it can be a comfort zone to have that miniature world to slip into from time to time where things are just as they should be. While creating miniatures may not be a large part of a teen’s life, they may enjoy having a mini world close by where they can escape to from time to time.
Will children return to the world of miniatures as they mature? That answer is found in each individual child and their personal preferences. For some, miniatures will again play a large part in their lives, or they will retain a lasting fondness for the little things that mean so much. Others will develop different passions which are more in keeping with their individual taste and personality. Regardless of the passion that takes center stage in their life, the child who has been encouraged to be creative…..who has had their imagination nurtured and praised……will always have an advantage in life. And just maybe, we might be building a new generation of miniaturists in the process.
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