As far back as I can recall I loved dinosaurs. Not in a "isn't Tyrannosaurus cool?" kind of way but in the "Tyrannosaurus rex was named in 1905, and in 1908 Barnum Brown dug up a fantastic skeleton at Big Dry Creek, Montana..." and so on and so forth. For hours. And hours. My siblings and cousins initially humored me, their interest fading minutes into my soliloquy. When they saw my enthusiastic tales weren't going away anytime soon they magically found something else to do when talk of dinosaurs came about. Which was every time I interacted with people because why wouldn't dinosaurs be the topic???
My academic friends tell me I had was is known as "Intense Interest". Intense interest isn't just for dinosaur superfans, all manner of heavy machinery, astronomy, ancient Egypt, and wildlife are common intense interest areas. However, any subject can be of intense interest, it varies by child. No one knows what causes intense interest. It typically begins around age 3 and lasts a few months to a few years, waning usually by age 6. In some cases it continues for longer, in my case, it never stopped :-).
Intense interest can cause parents concern as they wonder, "is it ok that my child is obsessed with knowing every piece of minutia about dinosaurs?" Worry no more!!! Intense interest tends to provide longterm benefits to children's cognitive capabilities. A child that desires to know all they can about dinosaurs is learning all of the dinosaur information within a context. This context allows the brain to map all of the disparate paleo facts into a cohesive landscape of knowledge. When confronted with information that contradicts their knowledge their brain evaluates the new info and decides to either make an addendum to their knowledge base or discard the new fact (and proudly provide reasons why). Intense interest children never take new info as gospel (unless from sources they have grown to trust), they consider the source, the likelihood based on their knowledge, and listen to the logic of new information before simply accepting it as fact. They place this new information within their dinosaur-world context, their neural networks adding more lanes of superhighway information. These superhighways are needed for, in the case of dinosaurs, children learn about the breadth and depth of time, evolution, climate change, extinction, predator/prey relationships, identification skills, and really big words. "Pachycephalosaurus = Thick headed lizard", (that one never fails to catch an adult by surprise when it effortlessly lilts off the tongue of a four-year-old...), and a number of other areas. These areas require lots of neural networks to wire together to make sense of it all, something a young human brain is eager to do!
When the intense interest passes, the child's brain has learned how to build frameworks of knowledge. All of the brain organizational skills needed to master dinosaurs, airplanes, Egypt, etc. directly transfer to nearly any other topic. The understanding of dates, names, characteristics, geography, and numerous other areas the intense interest child has learned that all interact with one another leads to their brain's neural network more easily processing and storing new data. The reason is that the human brain has a trick, once it knows how to do something for one "group" it can more easily do it for the next. Intense interest individuals rarely "memorize" information, yes they can often quote books chapter and verse but when asked about the information they are able to show it wasn't simply memorized as they are able, and want, to provide additional information, placing the info into the context of a dinosaur's life. This holistic assimilation of information serves intense interest children well throughout life.
Fossil Crates is here for not only intensely interested children (though you are the best!) but also for parents and relatives of children who have intense dinosaur interests. We were one of those children and strive to build products that we would have wanted as children, and want today even! We actively publish in academic journals and work at a facility that excavates, prepares, studies, and turn into exhibits around the world. Please take a look at our products at www.fossilcrates.com and know that they are built with love for paleontology.
Me in 1994 achieving one of my bucket list items of laying next to the scapula of what was called Ultrasaurus at the time. Unfortunately never meet your heroes as I had to "end" its taxonomic validity a year later...