December 30, 2017

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

For a year or two, dinosaurs were BIG in our house. Our daughter was very interested in books, television, and everything else related to dinosaurs, and several of her friends shared the interest. They all learned the word “hypothesis” and its meaning from the paleontologist on the children’s TV show Dinosaur Train. Some of the kids could rattle off scientific names for their favorite dinos.

Many children pick up an intense interest on a topic like dinosaurs, vehicles, or insects around ages two through six. After that it often fades away as school makes that kind of focus harder to sustain.

It’s been a few years since dinosaur talk and interest were commonplace in our house. For some parents, an intense interest starts out cute and then, over the years, gets borderline annoying or concerning.

I still remember discussing the best approach with my husband. Was there anything educational in our daughter memorizing multisyllabic words? Anything helpful to a young brain in knowing a lot about a subject, even if that subject is an extinct animal? It crossed our minds that we should try to redirect her enthusiasm and brainpower toward something more useful.

Instinct told me that digging deep into a subject was worthwhile, at best, and harmless, at the worst. Experts have declared the intense interests healthy. (Tell my husband I was right!) Kids get a little confidence boost when they know a little more about their favorite topic than some adults. Other benefits for the child are things like:

• More persistence
• Improved attention span
• Deeper information-processing skills
• Higher confidence

Looking back, the dinosaur days seem a little quaint. Like so many things in childhood, from mysterious knee pain to imaginary friends, kids just grow out of it.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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