The Quick Report

Are Kids Who Love Dinosaurs Smarter?

A study has found that kids obsessed with dinosaurs are different, but not in an annoying way. Turns out, these kids are smarter and have other key skills. It’s the same for kids who love bugs, planets, and trains. Here’s why.

Dinosaur-obsessed kids

Perhaps you have a kid or a young relative who loves dinosaurs. Or bugs. Or planets. Or trains or trucks. Maybe you were even one of these kids yourself. You almost certainly knew one of these kids growing up. Their walls might have been covered in dinosaur posters, or they had plastic dinosaurs lined up on their shelves.

Dinosaur-obsessed can recite a list of scientific names of dozens of dinosaurs. Or name some of the most obscure dinos, such as an Ozraptor. They might tell you it’s an abelisauroid theropod dinosaur that lived in modern-day Australia during the Middle Jurassic period, and by the way, they know the difference between the Mesozoic and Cretaceous periods.

Now, compare that to the average adult. They might be only able to name ten dinosaurs at best.

Scientists say that kids who become obsessed with the topic have “an intense interest,” and research has shown this is a very good thing to have.

Study finds kids who love dinosaurs, bugs, and more are smarter

But before you write off this obsession as annoying, scientists say this “intense interest” is an important sign. It indicates intelligence.

A 2008 study by researchers from the University of Indiana and the University of Wisconsin found that such sustained, intense interests are beneficial in helping children develop key life skills. The researchers identified that such interests can help children develop better persistence, a better attention span, and deeper information-processing skills. The study also found these obsessions can boost linguistic skills, and enhance the skills of complex thinking.

Overall, having “intense interests” helps these children attain increased knowledge. The result is kids who are better learners and smarter.


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Decades of research back up the findings of the 2008 study. Three separate studies found that older children who have intense interests tended to be of above-average intelligence, CNN reported.

Age ranges for developing “intense interests”

Research has found an overlap between the age range for developing intense interest and imagination-based play.

The key age range for developing intense interests is between the ages of two and six. The peak ages of imagination-based play are between the ages of three and five.

Between these ages, kids are wired to focus intently on just a few things. Therefore, they seem to be obsessed with these things. However, such a focus brings a wealth of developmental benefits.

Why parents should support their kid’s dino (or other) obsession

Experts say parents may get weary of their children’s obsession with things like dinosaurs, bugs, planets, trains, and so on. However, they say parents should support and encourage these intense interests as they provide long-term benefits and improve intelligence.

For the child, it’s a way of learning a new subject and having fun at the same time.

“Asking questions, finding answers, and gaining expertise is the learning process in general,” said Kelli Chen, a pediatric psychiatric occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins. “Exploring a topic and mastering it is beneficial because that’s how we form careers as adults.”

“A kid’s primary occupation is play,” Chen added, “so they’re going about their job of playing through the lens of this thing they’re interested in learning about.”

Are obsessions a sign of autism?

Some parents might be concerned with their child’s obsession with the topic, as infatuation is one of the signs of autism. However, if the child is not showing a cluster of other symptoms, it’s more likely your child simply has an intense interest.

Boys more likely to focus on a single interest

Several studies have found that boys are more likely to hone in on a single interest than girls. However, it’s unclear whether this is due to biology or social constructs. For example, this difference may be affected by the way toys are marketed to kids.

Most obsessions fade

According to some studies, about one-third of children will develop some of these intense interests during their lifetime.

However, the intense interests children develop during these peak years tend to fade, especially when school starts and competing interests arise. Schoolwork itself can also detract from a singular interest. The educational environment requires kids to focus on various subjects and hit specific achievement goals, leaving less time for the child to focus on a single subject.

For most kids, these intense interests will burn bright but quickly fade away. A 2007 study of 177 kids found that the intense interests were only sustained between six months and three years.

For a few, sometimes these interests will turn into an enduring love. A kid obsessed with trucks becomes a mechanic or one that loves medical tools becomes a doctor or a nurse.