We’ve all seen it on “reality TV.” The door to a house opens and the floor is waist deep in stacks of newspapers, discarded fast food containers, clothing cast-offs, and broken objects that might come in handy someday. When parents look into their child’s bedroom, many of them fear that’s what the future holds for their child.

Many children like to collect objects. For some it’s rocks, pretty leaves, dolls, action figures, or trading cards of some variety. Most of us can think back to our own childhoods and recall something we focused on collecting for some period of time. In the greater number of cases, it’s a perfectly normal part of growing up. Some children collect something because a friend or family member gets them interested in doing so. Collecting the same thing, like dolls, stamps, or coins can make a child feel like they belong in some way to a larger group. It can also help to establish an identity as their own unique self – if no one else in the family collects miniature horse figurines for example, they start to be known for that particular trait.

If your child is a “collector”, there are things you can do as a parent to set some reasonable limits. You can establish areas in their room or other parts of the house where things can be displayed or stored .Be sure your child has access to appropriate storage containers or display shelves to keep things orderly or at least out of sight. Periodically help them determine if things are still important to them or if they have moved on and are ready to discard or donate a former collection. Don’t over indulge their requests for additional items but rather help them earn new additions in some way or use their own money to purchase them. Where adults have financial access to keep expanding collections, children are somewhat limited in how much they can grow many collections without adult assistance. (Note – be sure your family Amazon account is password protected!)

In the case of the child who accumulates primarily things like their own art creations, broken toys, or other items with little or no monetary value, you can also set limits of how much can be kept and in what format. Some parents take photos of children’s art creations so all originals do not need to be kept. If your child loves odds and ends, allow them a storage container to collect the various pieces.

When should parents be concerned? If your child seems to be developing overpowering attachments to the objects they collect, it’s time to tune in a little more closely. If parting with objects becomes more and more distressing or your child seems to be overly worried or concerned about their possessions, it’s best to share your concern with your pediatrician. If these attachments seem to be interfering with the child’s daily functioning, again, seek out a professional opinion. Your pediatrician can refer you if needed for an evaluation to determine if counseling or therapy may be beneficial for your family.