Toy trends may come and go, but there are some childhood obsessions that stand the test of time. Take dinosaurs, for instance …
If you know a small child who is crazy-keen to know the name of every kind of dinosaur and memorise their unique features, you may be interested to learn that there’s a bunch of reasons behind their newfound fixation.
They might have an ‘extremely intense interest’
Firstly, it may be partly down to a naturally occurring psychological phenomenon known as ‘extremely intense interests’. Extremely intense interests (or EIIs) are frequently seen in preschool-aged children and obsessions can range from dinosaurs to vehicles to The Wizard of Oz.
Researchers say that around a third of the kids they studied had these EIIs, and that they start to emerge at around 18 months of age.
Experts say these interests tend to promote ‘fact collecting’ behaviour and it’s thought that the transition from home to spending more time at school – and adhering to set curriculum – may interrupt or slow down kids’ natural fact-collecting enthusiasm. On average, though, interests lasted from six months to three years, and you definitely should encourage them to help them stick around.
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They’re mastering a safe kind of monster
For small children, dinosaurs embody all sorts of foreboding qualities and features. Sharp teeth, big claws, scaly bodies, powerful limbs …
What better way to come to terms with something scary than to find out everything you can about them in the brilliant knowledge that they no longer walk the earth?!
It’s a reassuring sort of mastery and perhaps it helps kids learn to deal with other scary things/people/creatures too?
They’re learning about earth, life and the natural world
“Dinosaurs put our place in the world into perspective,” explains palaeontologist Matt Bonnan on his blog and he’s spot on.
These incredible and fascinating creatures teach children more about how species come to be – and disappear – and how they adapt and survive in the interim.
An interest in dinosaurs also helps kids get their head around the earth’s timeline and appreciate that amazing, interesting things existed long before they did. It’s a sort of magic, really.
They might be tapping into some primal instincts
Some researchers suggest that dinosaurs – and garbage trucks – might trigger a biological bias in little humans, something that stems back to our days as hunters and gatherers. They think we might be primed to be interested in these “big game” creatures because they might be food or they might eat us! So, it pays to pay attention because the stakes are high.
They simply love learning
While, for some kids, a dinosaur obsession might show a deep and pure love of dinosaurs, other children are Dino-freaks because they have a love of learning. The notion that there’s a wealth of information to discover is very, very exciting and they need to know more – and categorise and memorise – at all costs!
If we’re talking dinosaurs, the learning opportunities seem endless. There are lots of different kinds of dinosaurs; they have complex names, varied habits and habitats, interesting timelines and all kinds of different features.
US mum Susan Alloway told The Cut her six-year-old daughter simply could not get enough of all the dinosaur details.
“She loves that it feels never-ending. There’s so much information, and she loves the long names of the dinosaurs and learning about the different prehistoric periods. It’s like she can’t stop learning it all, and there’s always more for her to learn.”
They’re displaying an ‘over-excitability’
In the 1960s, Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski suggested that there are five areas in which kids show intense “over-excitabilities” or “super-sensitivities.” They are psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational – and you can read more about those here.
A love of dinosaurs taps into more than one of these super-sensitivities. Think intellectual (seeking understanding and truth to gain knowledge, and to analyse and categorise information) and imaginational (play of the imagination causing rich association of images, invention and fantasy.)
And is it a gender thing?
The jury is still out. Lots of girls are totally dinosaur obsessed, but research suggests that boys were observed to be more dinosaur-focused than girls.
This may be down to marketing, with different genders being encouraged to play with different sorts of toys from an early age. Other researchers seem to think boys appear to be more dino-centric because of biological and hormonal factors – and not gender conditioning. So yeah, we’re not sure on the gender balance here yet.
Perhaps you understand your own dinosaur lover a little better now? Be sure to encourage their enthusiasm in every way you can because the research tells us that these passions can drop off if we don’t make time for them and nurture them.
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