By Jenafer Medina, Elementary and Special Education Teacher
Call them obsessions, fixations, or the latest fascination; some kids develop strong areas of interest that seem unshakable. Maybe it’s trains, dinosaurs, planes, or a certain animal. Parents often worry that with such a limited focus, their child is missing out on so much more. But these “obsessions” can be so beneficial to kids and should be embraced! Don’t worry, they usually don’t last very long; before you know it, kids will find a new topic to become fascinated with.
- Leading the Learning—Topical obsessions offer a chance for kids to take charge of their learning and offer a strong motivation for reading, research, and exploration. They begin a quest for more knowledge. This is a great way to introduce how to research—by visiting the library, using the Internet, and using quality sources of reference material. It also affords opportunities for places to visit and activities for continued learning, bridging the obsession to the real world. Trips to museums become more meaningful and exciting.
- Increasing Motivation—Since they become so fascinated with a subject, it becomes easy to get kids to read more by offering them a chance to learn additional facts about their area of interest. Suddenly, reluctant readers become engaged and excited, since reading brings them more facts and information on a topic they find so stimulating.
- Boosting Self-Esteem—Having a subject they become so knowledgeable about offers a great boost to a child’s self-esteem. They become the expert and can rattle off facts and tidbits about it. This can help bring shy children out of their shells or give them more confidence in general. They usually thrive off the ability to impress others with their large knowledge base on their subject area. It can also be very helpful for children who struggle in other areas or subjects to “feel smart” about their area of interest.
- Offering a Bridge—Parents can use these favorite topics to introduce or work on less favorite subjects. A child who struggles with math may find it less “boring” if the work is framed within his or her area of interest. Suddenly, adding and subtracting is more meaningful when it relates to how long trains are compared to one another. By making that meaningful connection, we can add interest and make the subject more relatable to them.
While hearing about the same topic over and over can be daunting at times for parents, there is so much for kids to benefit from when we embrace the topic and allow for their exploration. These obsessions come and go, usually without much warning before they find their “new thing” as they grow up. By embracing their obsession we are also embracing the kids and all that makes them unique. We are also encouraging them to learn more about the world around them and to find and follow their passion.