Dinosaurs ruled the entire planet once upon a time, and even today, no matter which corner of the world you might be in, you’ll find them ruling the imaginations of little children, and dinosaur toys have also always been favourites. There are many reasons for this. Research has led scientists to believe that it is linked to the natural psychological occurrence of Extreme Intense Interests (EII) amongst preschoolers. EIIs start emerging from around the age of 18 months onwards and commonly extend up to the time children start formal schooling, with some children retaining the original interests they had. Dinosaurs just happen to be one of the more common ways in which EIIs are manifested.
So, why dinosaurs?
Confront scary things, safely
While it’d be fun to imagine some deep-rooted troglodyte (prehistoric) instinct kicking in, it’s more likely that the magical and fantastic aspects of these extinct creatures that draw kids towards them. While children can see real tigers, elephants, or sharks in zoos or nature documentaries, dinosaurs can truly exist only in their imaginations. Their astronomical size, sharp teeth, scaly (or feathery?) skins, and deadly claws are truly horrific, but at least there’s no chance they’ll pop up around the corner as children head to the park. Even the tiny neighbourhood dog might seem scarier to a little one than a dinosaur! This helps them confront scary things safely.
Cognitive development, better attention spans, etc.
Dinosaurs are also gateways to knowledge -- a natural draw for the curious minds of our little folk. An understanding of dinosaurs opens up young minds to making sense of our planet and how time exists on a larger scale. The fact that there is such a diverse number of dinosaurs we know about (and more being added constantly) gives children a chance to pick a ‘favourite’ that might be unique. And, they have fantastic names! Most children love being able to show off their knowledge by pronouncing a complicated name that their parents might never have heard of before. The vast treasure trove of knowledge waiting to be discovered by the little minds makes them great learning resources. An interest in a conceptual domain like dinosaurs spurs the cognitive development of children. Importantly, some of the benefits are better attention spans, persistence, and improved information-processing skills.
Learn to love learning
It’s a fact that many children outgrow their EIIs as they approach formal school, probably because their little minds now have to deal with a wider range of school subjects while negotiating social interactions with their newfound peers. However, some children will continue to delve deeply into the ideas that caught their imagination early. Often, interests such as dinosaurs lend to later development of a love for science and nature, encouraging children to study what they love.
A child’s job is to play. As parents and caregivers, it’s important for us to help them do this the best way possible. And, dinosaur toys make it that much easier for us! By springing open a world of discovery, imagination, science, and magic, we’re helping our little paleontologists discover fantastic worlds gone-by, with a whole lot of ‘learning’ that just happens on the side. So encourage it - and chat with your dinosaur-crazy four year old about who T Rex was afraid of, and why? :)
* Except birds, of course, which are, technically, dinosaurs too.
This article is part of our series on choosing gifts or return gifts for kids. From return gifts for birthday parties, to toys for newly born babies, to gifts for birthdays or Diwali or Christmas - gift giving can be a complex affair - with deep implications on development as well as joy or heartbreak for the little tyke in question.
This series and our collection of toys for kids hopes to help you navigate this!