For some children, dinosaurs are life. They can name countless dinosaurs off the top of their heads, they'll correct your pronunciation if you slaughter a dino name, and they'll laugh you out of the room if you suggest a Tyrannosaurus Rex would eat a Stegosaurus (in fact, the Stegosaurus had been extinct for millions of years by the time T-Rex came around).
But is this obsession with dinosaurs healthy? Wouldn't it be better for kids to branch out to other topics, as well?
In fact, research has found that, not only is it OK for kids to obsess over dinosaurs, this intense interest, known as a "conceptual interest," may benefit them.
A conceptual interest manifests as more than passing curiosity. Children who like dinosaur toys, for example, don't necessarily have a conceptual interest in dinosaurs. However, children who love memorizing facts about dinosaurs and want to know everything about them may have a conceptual interest. Kids with a conceptual interest have a self-motivated interest in learning, which impacts how they learn and what they learn in the future.
"Sustaining interests on conceptual domains can lead to a number of benefits for learning—increased knowledge and persistence, heightened attention and deeper levels of processing," researchers explained in ScienceDirect.
Here are a few ways children's interest in dinosaurs could benefit them long-term.
Enhanced verbal skills
Have you met determined preschool-age children with burning questions? Regardless of their language skills, they will do whatever it takes to get satisfactory responses—and woe betide the adult who gives half-baked answers.
That determination is likely the reason researchers found that "children who manifest conceptual interests during early childhood tend to be highly verbal," according to ScienceDirect. This is likely linked to children's desire to understand and be understood and to their exposure to a range of vocabulary words as a result of their frequent questions.
Another benefit linked to asking questions about a specific subject is children's improved ability to comprehend complex topics.
"Topic interest is highly correlated with deep-level indicators of understanding, such as elaborations and correct responses to comprehension questions," according to ScienceDirect.
Students with advanced comprehension skills tend to enjoy reading more than others and master age-appropriate skills quickly, according to Iowa Reading Research Center. And kids with improved mastery of reading tend to do well in school.
Higher levels of confidence
Another benefit of intense interests is the confidence kids derive from their solid understanding of a topic. It may be the first time in their lives they know more about something than a parent or teacher.
"It makes them feel powerful," pediatric psychiatrist Kelli Chen told The Cut. "Their parent may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority."
Once children discover the excitement of having expertise, they may be interested in pursuing advanced learning in other topics—or the same topic if they're destined to become paleontologists.
You can encourage your children's love of dinosaurs and learning by visiting Jurassic Quest, the largest traveling dinosaur exhibit in North America. It has over 80 animatronic dinosaurs on display, along with real fossils and hands-on dinosaur-themed activities. Don't delay, as research has found that the days of "intense interest" are limited, often lasting only a few months to a year and fading soon after kids begin elementary school.
Visit jurassicquest.com to buy tickets or to find an event near you.