If you ask a child why they like dinosaurs so much, you may find answers as varied as: “because they are lizards and they are giants” or “I don’t know, because they are reptiles”. In most cases, they won’t be able to explain why they like dinosaurs, but that doesn’t change the obvious: they love them, they are amazed by them, they are obsessed by them.
Dinosaurs arouse a special fascination perhaps because of the atmosphere of mystery and unreality that surrounds them. They have never seen them. It is incredible that children so young can recite from memory dozens of types of dinosaurs and details about their environment, diet or theories about their extinction. This obsession of children with dinosaurs is based on what scientists call “intense interests”. This term describes a particularly strong motivation for a specific topic, in this case dinosaurs. And these intense interests can be very beneficial for children’s cognitive development
Children and dinosaurs > Cognitive development
Indeed, developing these intense interests in childhood can have many benefits. A study conducted at the Universities of Indiana and Wisconsin found this to be true. And it doesn’t have to be specifically about dinosaurs. Other children develop intense interests in cars or aeroplanes, for example. No matter what, the fact is that it is estimated that about a third of children between the ages of 2 and 6 will develop these interests at some point in their childhood and, in some cases, they will not leave them for the rest of their lives.
This obsession with dinosaurs is, in short, a mastery of a specific subject. A subject that they control over others. This specific mastery has many benefits among which we can highlight the improvement of attention and the development of study strategies that could be used in their professional future. Children do not limit themselves to a superficial knowledge of dinosaurs but ask more complex questions about, for example, their types, food and environment, i.e. they ask questions and are learning about a subject in a deep way
Intense interests help children to go deeper and develop critical thinking by asking questions such as what happened to the dinosaurs or why did they become extinct?
Dinosaurs in film and literature
Although dinosaurs had been appearing in films for many years, the release of the film Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, was perhaps the trigger for the worldwide dinosaur mania of the early 1990s. Spielberg based his film on Michael Crichton’s wonderful novel Jurassic Park, published in 1990, a clear example of the space that dinosaurs already occupied in literature. This fever unleashed by Jurassic Park almost thirty years ago has managed to reach the present day with its sequels. Indeed, Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997) (also based on Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, 1995) and Jurassic Park III (2001) as well as more recent films such as Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), have continued to feed and encourage interest in these extinct animals
what do we do as parents if children are obsessed with dinosaurs?
Encourage it and make the most of it while it lasts. Nowadays there is an infinite amount of reading as well as films about dinosaurs adapted to the age and interests of the child. We have to learn to see this interest in dinosaurs not as an obsession but as a learning opportunity.
Children learn by playing and if they are interested in something they will pay much more attention. In this way they will develop the ability to assimilate. By accompanying and guiding (not censoring) them in this interest, by respecting their tastes, we will also be contributing to the development of an adequate self-esteem on the part of the child. Intense interests help to increase children’s confidence. Moreover, sharing these passions will allow us to spend more time with them, time that they will always remember. To do this, we can enjoy watching a film or reading a story with them. We can also accompany them to museums or to activities developed with their interest
Examples of dinosaur films
The Flintstones; In Search of the Enchanted Valley (1988); Jurassic Park Saga (1993-2018); Rex, a Dinosaur in New York (1993); Barney and Imagination Island (1994), Dinosaur (2000); Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009); Arlo’s Journey (2015).
Examples of stories, books, atlases and encyclopaedias about dinosaurs
The combisaurus, Sara Ball. SM; Surprendente Atlas Junior de Dinosaurios, ed Yoyo. Dinosaurios gigantes, Marie Grenwood and Peter Minister, ed. SM. Superquizzes. Dinosaurs. Everything that’s cool about dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts, ed. Dinosaurs, ed. Susaeta (Little explorers collection). La guía de dinosaurios de ÑAC-ÑAC, Emma Yarlett, ed. Dinosaur stomping! El Triceratops, ed. Bruño.
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