Not So Trivial Pursuits
Kid obsessions are generally endearing at first. It's fun to see children develop a focus and want to explore a topic more deeply. But once they latch onto something, the constant barrage of questions ("Which holds more dirt -- a backhoe or a bulldozer?") and requests ("Can I get another Barbie outfit?") can try any parent's patience.
Still, experts say you should learn to live with your child's hobby. For one thing, the fixation is probably making him happy. "Plus, an intense interest can fuel intellectual curiosity," says Lisa Spiegel, codirector of Soho Parenting, a center for family guidance and emotional support in New York City.
Alexa Chaplin, of Vestal, New York, says her son Campbell's passion for ancient Egypt at age 3 paved the way for studying pyramids and archaeology. Campbell would sit still for 45 minutes at a stretch listening to Mummies in the Morning, part of the Magic Tree House series, and his vocabulary quickly blossomed.
A child's obsession can also help her forge social connections. Andrea Facio, of Linden, North Carolina, notes that her 3-year-old daughter, Cali, has overcome her shyness around adults by talking to them about her beloved baby dolls. "She loves to answer questions about them," says Facio.
Your child's obsession could even draw your family closer. By supporting a hobby, parents (and sometimes siblings) will learn more about the topic themselves, and her interest can become contagious. Dr. DeLoache recalls from her research how one little girl's fondness for dressing up in fancy costumes turned the whole family into a troupe of Civil War reenactors. And following the lead of their dinosaur-loving daughter, Olivia, the Arnold family, from Worcester, Massachusetts, has made two trips to visit the T- Rex and stegosaurus bones at New York City's American Museum of Natural History.