When Elijah was about two years old, he was so into dinosaurs. By age three he had nearly memorized all the names of the dinosaurs. He even thought he was a dinosaur. He would only use three fingers on each hand to pick up objects in the house. And he would walk around the mall or other public places looking for “prey”.
In fact he looked like a crazy and weird kid when he would hide behind stalls or racks of clothing, follow people around pretending to attack them, and walk in a zig-zag pattern, hunched over like a dinosaur! Sometimes I would feel quite embarrassed!
One day I said to him, “Elijah you are not a dinosaur, you are a human, a person. God created you as a human being. Everything about you is special and unique.” I was not trying to quell his interest but I was getting a little bit concerned about his sense of reality. And sure enough when I said, “Look at your hands. You have five fingers and you can move each one…Dinosaurs don’t have hands like you do…” Elijah raised up his hands and showed me his fingers but he did not hold them up like human hands. He curled up his pointer, middle and ring finger and joined his thumb and pinky so that his hands looked like dinosaur claws! I could not help but laugh aloud because he was completely serious.
As I tried to explain to him why it was so wonderful to be a person, Elijah started to cry. There was nothing more in this world that he wanted than to be a dinosaur.
So what did Edric and I do? We decided to make the most of his interest instead of making an issue out of this phase. We took a positive approach to his interest and capitalized on it.
I got him dinosaur books and every kind of dinosaur toy I could possibly find (that was not too expensive!) so he could collect them and learn their names. He became inspired to learn to read. He exercised his memory skills. I also used dinosaurs to teach him math concepts. For example, “If there are two brontosaurus’ and a stegosaurus comes to play with them, how many will they be?”
When Elijah wanted to learn more about dinosaurs and there were not enough books around, I would research online with him. Together we learned the biblical perspective on creationism and at what point in history dinosaurs came into the picture.
When Edric’s sister, Denise, invited a then 4 year old Elijah to talk about dinosaurs to her preschool class, he did just that. I helped him put together his power point slides but he was the one who decided what to talk about. He did a wonderful job presenting to the kids and handled himself like an expert on dinosaurs. He even corrected me a couple of times during his talk for mislabeling one of his dinosaurs as an omnivore or something like that.
Dinosaurs also became a motivational tool to inspire good behavior.
That was four years ago. He has since developed varied interests like planes, Beyblades, board games, and origami. No matter what his interests are, I have used them as springboards for learning in some way. I have done the same for my other kids.
Interests (for as long as they are not harmful) are a powerful tool to inspire learning. It takes a little bit of creativity to integrate the subject matter but the responsiveness makes teaching a whole lot easier! So tap into that interest!