Why You Should Indulge Your Child's Dinosaur Obsession
When some children are quite young, they begin to show what scientists call “intense interest” in certain topics--like dinosaurs.
Kids go through phases. Sometimes it’s all about space, trains, unicorns, or cars. But for many young children, dinosaurs can capture the imagination like nothing else. But what happens when a child is so obsessed with these pre-historic creatures that it’s almost all they can talk about?
Don’t be concerned if a little one seems a bit pre-occupied. In fact, they might just have a future in it. According to recent reporting in The New York Times, Evan Johnson-Ransom could recite countless facts about dozens of dinosaurs when he was a little kid. Now, he’s a vertebrate paleontologist who is studying the evolution of feeding behaviors in dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He credits his mother and grandmother for indulging him in his passions at an early age.
When some children are quite young, they begin to show what scientists call “intense interest” in certain topics. For many, these interests begin to wane in adolescence. But for a few, the interests can deepen and create a path for further exploration that could lead to a purposeful career or calling.
Having an intense interest is especially important for cognitive development. According to CNN, a 2008 study found that intense interests over a long period of time, “particularly in a conceptual domain like dinosaurs, can help children develop increased knowledge and persistence, a better attention span, and deeper information-processing skills. In short, they make better learners and smarter kids.”
The important distinction is when kids develop “conceptual” interests as opposed to “situational” interests. Conceptual interests arise when a child is deeply interested in the subject— all things dinosaurs. Situational interests happen when a child is interested in something in the moment—like when a lion suddenly roars. Kids with conceptual interests tend to dive deeply into a subject area that develops over time.
A piece in Distractify reported that “A study carried out at the universities of Indiana and Wisconsin found that children who develop an intense interest do better later in life. Joyce M. Alexander of Indiana University and her team found that this type of interest, especially those that demand a conceptual domain, ‘enhance perseverance, improve attention and enhance skills of complex thinking as the processing of information.’”
For some kids, a passion for dinosaurs happens more organically over time. Ben R., a 13-year-old from Texas, first became interested in dinosaurs as a result of a Pokémon obsession as a young child. His devotion to dinosaurs emerged as a way to understand fantastical creatures that really existed.
“Science seems natural for me because I always wanted to answer questions that every kid has like ‘how did animals get here?’ Dinosaurs got me very interested in science and I started to learn more on my own about pre-historic marine life, evolution, and the history of life Earth—things like that,” Ben said. “I want to work in a research lab and figure out mysteries. I want to contribute. I love science.”
Other studies have also concluded that children with sustained interests have more of a capacity to develop above-average intelligence. While many parents are considering homeschooling, unschooling, or cooperative schooling for the 2020-2021 school year, zoning in on a child’s natural interests could help facilitate deeper growth and mastery in a variety of subjects including science, history, language arts, and math. Leveraging a child’s passion by incorporating their own interests into individualized lessons is a common teaching methodology in alternative education.
Through science and entertainment content, parents can help kids deepen their love of dinosaurs. From revisiting the Jurassic Park franchise to watching the mind-blowing reenactments of dinosaur wars of the critically-acclaimed series, Walking with Dinosaurs, dino lovers everywhere can find something to enjoy.
Parents can also find multiple virtual field trips online at renowned museums that house exceptional dinosaur collections including the Field Museum in Chicago and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.