Kids can be fickle little things, but they can also hone in on one very specific obsession. It can be anything! Garbage trucks, dinosaurs, or a certain color. Once the child's mind has decided that's "their" thing, it can turn into a full blown infatuation. Maybe you have a child who wants everything in their room to be blue, or has a collection of dump truck toys that would rival any actual company fleet. It's hard to know what is going to pique your child's interest in such an intense way. And some kids never experience this! But as parents, it's important for us to encourage our children's specific obsessions.
Intense Interests vs Obsessions
Scientists call these obsessions "intense interests." Not only are they common, they're actually very healthy!
In a piece written for New York Magazine called A Psychological Explanation of Kids' Love of Dinosaurs, Kate Morgan says that almost 1/3 of kids have had an obsession like this at some point in their lives. They usually take hold sometime between the ages of 2 and 6, and can last for a pretty long time. These aren't the fleeting interests that we normally see in kids, like a love for chicken nuggets or Peppa Pig. These are passionate infatuations that are noticed by other people outside of mom or dad. Sure, it can seem strange to encourage them, but doing so benefits our kids.
When a child becomes obsessed with something and becomes an expert in it, that builds confidence. Even more, it's been shown to benefit their intellectual development.
A 2008 study published in ScienceDirect suggests that intense interests can help kids develop increased knowledge, better information-processing skills, and even greater attention spans. In other words, being obsessed with dinosaurs can make your kid smarter!
Passion For Learning
In addition, by encouraging these intense interests, we're helping our kids develop a passion for learning, and teaching them that we will always support them (even if their interest are a little strange).
Does anyone remember the girl who had the Target-themed birthday party? Or the little boy who was so obsessed with a personal injury lawyer whose commercials he saw on TV that his mom made it the theme of his party? Intense interests aren't always going to make sense, but we should always encourage our kids to have them. Do you remember how amazing it felt to love something SO MUCH that it was all you could think about? It's joyful, and we should always help our kids find their joy.
They will eventually grow out of it (or your dino-obsessed kid will grow up to be a paleontologist, which would be fantastic!). New interests will take hold, and maturing minds will shift to other pursuits. This is just one of those fleeting parts of childhood that can be so sweet and so weird, and one of the things that makes having kids absolutely amazing.