The third Tuesday in May is International Dinosaur Day, but it is also celebrated on June 1st.
Why are kids so fascinated with dinosaurs?
Many children, between the ages of 2 and 6 develop what scientists call an ‘intense interest’ in things such as trains, planes, diggers or dinosaurs. Scientists are not entirely sure why these interests happen but it is a perfectly normal part of the learning process.
Kate Morgan, in her article ‘A Psychological Explanation for Kids’ Love of Dinosaurs’ (Science of Us, Dec 6, 2017) comments:
Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara was a young boy with an intense interest in dinosaurs that never faded. In 2005, he discovered a giant plant-eating dinosaur in southern Patagonia. He named the beast, which stood more than two stories tall and weighed more than a Boeing 737, Dreadnoughtus. Lacovara is currently the director of Rowan University’s Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and visiting parents constantly tell him about kids who are crazy for dinosaurs.
‘I hear it over and over,’ from parents, he says, ‘They know all the names! I don’t know how they remember that stuff.’ But Lacovara does, or at least he has some theories. “I think for many of these children, that’s their first taste of mastery, of being an expert in something and having command of something their parent or coach or doctor doesn’t know,” he says. “It makes them feel powerful. Their parents may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority.”
Intense interests are a big confidence booster for kids, agrees Kelli Chen, a paediatric psychiatric occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins.
They’re also particularly beneficial for cognitive development. A 2008 study found that sustained intense interests, particularly in a conceptual domain like dinosaurs, can help children develop increased knowledge and persistence, a better attention span, and deeper information-processing skills. In short, they make better learners and smarter kids. There’s decades of research to back that up: Three separate studies have found that older children with intense interests tend to be of above-average intelligence.
A dino obsession, then, can be a kid’s way of taking in a new subject in a way that feels familiar to them: through the business of having fun. “Asking questions, finding answers, and gaining expertise is the learning process in general,” Chen says. “Exploring a topic and mastering it is beneficial because that’s how we form careers as adults. A kid’s primary occupation is play, so they’re going about their job of playing through the lens of this thing they’re interested in learning about.”
20 reasons why kids love dinosaurs:
1. Dinosaurs are a mystery to us because they lived millions of years ago, and they’re all extinct. This mystery and the idea of ancient creatures can spark a sense of curiosity and fascination in kids.
2. Dinosaurs are often featured in children's books, movies, and TV shows, making them a common topic in children's media. When children see them in these forms of storytelling, they become more familiar with dinosaurs and may become more interested in them.
3. Dinosaurs provide an opportunity for children to learn about science, history, and exploration. Learning about the different types of dinosaurs, their habitats, and behaviours can inspire kids to learn more about the world around them.
4. Kids are fascinated by the sheer size and power of dinosaurs. The idea that creatures that big and strong once existed on the Earth is awe-inspiring.
5. Dinosaurs are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Kids love learning about the different types of dinosaurs and how they lived.
6. Dinosaurs offer a great way for kids to learn about science, paleontology, and other related fields. This can help foster a lifelong interest in learning.
7. Dinosaurs represent adventure and exploration. Kids love to imagine what it would be like to explore the prehistoric world and encounter these creatures.
8. Dinosaurs allow kids to exercise their imagination and creativity. They can come up with their own stories and scenarios involving these fascinating creatures.
9. Dinosaurs are a common theme in popular culture, from movies and TV shows to books and video games. This exposure makes them even more appealing to kids.
10. Dinosaurs are a part of our natural history, and learning about them can help kids feel more connected to the world around them.
11. Dinosaurs had many unique characteristics that make them fascinating to study. From their bone structure to their diets, there is always something new to learn.
13. Dinosaurs lived during prehistoric times, and this can be a fascinating topic for kids to explore. They can learn about the different eras and how the world has changed over time.
14. Kids love to learn about fossils and bones, and studying dinosaur fossils is a great way to learn about this subject.
15. Dinosaurs offer a chance for kids to imagine travelling back in time to see these creatures in their natural habitat.
16. Dinosaurs have a global appeal and are of interest to children of different cultures around the world.
17. The idea of encountering a dinosaur can be both scary and exciting for kids. This fear factor adds to the fascination.
18. Dinosaurs come in all shapes and sizes, and kids can learn about the different types and their unique features.
19. Kids can use dinosaur toys and costumes to role-play and imagine what it would be like to be a dinosaur. This can be a fun way for them to explore their creativity and imagination.
20. Dinosaurs have fantastically long and curious names! Kids love to impress their friends and family by knowing how to say and often how to spell these intriguing names.