My Kid Is Obsessed! Understanding Your Preschooler's Hobbies and Obsessions

A Passion or a Problem?

Ruth Anan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, says your child's intense interest could signal an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Speak to your pediatrician if you're concerned.

You say "He's totally preoccupied with it."

Not to worry

  • He complains when you try to change activities -- but doesn't melt down completely.
  • He plays with the object in creative ways and in social situations (such as using his Matchbox cars in an obstacle course and to play gas station with a friend).

Worry if

  • His obsession seems more about maintaining order (lining cars up perfectly) than playing.
  • He's so focused on his passion that he doesn't enjoy doing or playing with other things.

You say "Her fixation seems so odd."

Not to worry

  • She quickly picks up on cues that another person doesn't share her passion, and transitions easily to other topics.
  • Her obsession doesn't stand in the way of making (and keeping) friends.

Worry if

  • She constantly gabs about her fascination, even when peers make it clear that they're disinterested.
  • When the conversation changes, she keeps circling back to her obsession.

You say "I find his obsession with guns to be scary."

Not to worry

  • He's picked it up from an older sibling or from watching violent cartoons (stop letting him watch these shows).
  • If a buddy wants to do something else, he can easily switch to another activity.

Worry if

  • Being the bad guy or a police officer is his only form of imaginative play.
  • He can't refrain from pretending to "shoot" classmates at school, even after constant teacher reminders.

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