Social & Emotional Development

Why Preschoolers Love Dinosaurs

By: Catherine Holecko
Child smiling next to plastic dinosaur figurines.
3 minutes to read
Ages 0-5

It’s no surprise preschool kids develop an intense interest in a particular type of play (dress-up), a concept (knock-knock jokes) or an object (insert your kid’s fixation here).

Although vehicles tend to top the list of obsessions, dinosaurs are a close second. Many pint-size paleontologists can reel off the multi-syllabled names of dozens of these fantastic prehistoric creatures, and then follow up with endless facts about their diet, habitat and date of extinction. They’ll talk about dinosaurs anywhere they are, with anyone they are with.

Researchers have investigated the kids-love-dinos connection and have come up with several theories about the appeal.

  • First, they suggest, dinosaurs are big and powerful—but they’re also extinct. So, kids can admire the animals without worrying about bumping into a hungry one in the park, zoo or around the house.
  • Also, the dinos kids encounter are all safely one step removed from reality—they’re on videos and in books, they show up as small toys and so on. Even a realistic reproduction in a museum is stuck in a stationary setting for all time.
  • Finally, there’s a feel-good factor. Dinosaurs offer a learning opportunity—and a chance for little kids to show off their stuff. It’s cool to know more about something than all the adults in their life!

But should you as a parent play along with your kid—and even encourage intense interests?

Usually, yes, experts say. Your child is accumulating an impressive amount of information, an interest in learning and solid skills along the way. Consider the following:

  • With any intense interest, kids are motivated to dig for more new information. They’ll want to look at books that challenge them, for example, without giving up quickly. And yes, this may mean they’ll want to read the same books or watch the same shows repeatedly. Although it’s boring to you, it isn’t to them. Allow the favorites—while also using the power of dinosaurs to expand your child’s horizons into other, still related sources of information, or fictional stories starring dinosaurs.
  • Most preschoolers have an attention span of just a few minutes. But give a dino lover a set of dinosaur figurines or a documentary on prehistoric times, and they’ll stay hooked for much longer, building those powers of attention (which they can eventually apply in other situations).
  • When young kids learn about dinosaurs, they also learn about classification. They grasp the idea that within the category of dinosaurs, there are subcategories. They can sort their dinosaur favorites into, say, meat eaters and plant eaters—each with different types of teeth, traveling speed and so on.
  • It feels good to master all that knowledge! So, when they do it, kids gain confidence in their brainpower and ability to learn.

Typically, dinosaur obsession starts to taper off when a child reaches kindergarten or first grade. At that point, your child may have less time and opportunity to focus on the once-beloved creatures. And your child may find that they are making friends who don’t share the same interest in dinosaurs, so your child moves on to something they have in common. What lasts? All those thinking skills your child gained during their dino-loving years. They never go extinct.

Your little adventurer will love this high-quality dinosaur backpack! Its dino-mite design has a hidden joke tucked away under the front pocket flap, and 3 exterior pockets great for carrying school supplies and a water bottle.

Author Catherine Holecko
By: Catherine Holecko

Catherine Holecko is a parenting writer and mother of two.