Children and antiques in the home: it's not impossible to have both

Are children and antiques an unlikely mixture? Not always! When antiques are carefully chosen they can be an integral part of an active family's home. As the mother of seven children and a lifetime antique aficionado, I've found a number of ways to combine the two.

Why bother to mix them? Here are four good reasons:

* Every child loves a story. Old things, especially family treasures handed down from generation to generation, have stories locked inside. Even our three sons have held and dressed two quaint dolls named Nellie and Geraldine, delighting in the fact that their great-grandmother played with these very dolls.

* An antique gives a child a sense of being connected to history, a connectedness lost too easily these days when team sports and computer classes sometimes fill up time formerly spent on history lessons. Flatirons and kerosene lamps enable children to visualize days gone by.

Encourage your child to try out such items, perhaps to eat dinner in the soft glow of an old lamp, and later to trim the wick, replenish the kerosene, and clean the smoke from its glass chimney.

* Antiques help a child identify with famous book characters, often spurring them to read a book they might otherwise pass by. A castiron corn-bread pan or candle mold may be similar to those used by characters in Laura Ingalls Wilder's ''Little House'' books. A real toasting fork is a reminder of the one mentioned in Louisa May Alcott's ''Little Women.'' A churn or stone butter jars bring alive the background of ''Caddie Woodlawn'' and other books about pioneer days.

* Antiques bear witness to the beauty of fine workmanship. More than one seventh-grader taking industrial arts at school has turned our Windsor chairs upside down to see how the parts fit cunningly together without a single nail. All children like to run their fingers over the satiny, age-smoothed arms of these chairs, ''just to feel.''

A list of antiques with child appeal might be endless, including patchwork quilts, old-fashioned pictures of children and animals, antique maps, silver porringers, a cradle to welcome a new family member, comfortable rocking chairs. Other possibilities: clocks, windup toys, dolls and doll furniture, usable antique tools, or sleigh bells for a bedroom door.

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