When little Cub was about 18 months old, he had this really unhealthy obsession with all things electric – switches, batteries, generators and the like. He wasn’t talking coherently yet, but hearing the whirr of the generator used to result in squeals of delight!
And then that phase died down slowly and the world of trains took its place. Then from about the age of 2 years, he was exclusively besotted with everything to do with trains. Honestly speaking, it got nauseating hearing ‘chug chug chug’ every second of the day!! He wanted to see trains on TV, on the computer, in books and papers, and he wanted to travel only by train, no matter how close our destination was!
But then that’s the thing about preschooler obsessions. They don’t have any kind of logic or reasoning behind their formation, but once they’re hooked on something, there’s nothing you can do to unhook them. We tried showing him videos of planes taking off, and buying him toy cars, but he stayed loyal to trains.
Some people think this could be a sign of autism or OCD. Some think their kids are little prodigies in their chosen field. The truth is somewhere in between. Most experts agree that it is healthy for kids of this age to have some kind of obsession – it helps in the whole learning process. Apparently, about 70% of all preschoolers are obsessed with something or the other; with cars, trucks, trains, cats being some of the top obsessions.
A train crazy child who doesn’t read may be more inclined towards a book filled with train pictures. A shy little cat lover may open up to talking about her favorite animal in a group. Also, since they’re so focused on one point, they tend to dwell in depth and investigate in detail about how their chosen obsession works the science behind it, etc. Trying to forcefully separate them from their interest could backfire and result in a depressed, dull child.
So what do we, as parents, do to direct our little Einsteins forward with their obsessions in a healthy manner? There are quite a few ways to keep them busy:
1. Sensory Bins: Just Google ‘Sensory bin’ and you’ll be amazed at the sheer variety of bins people make. This is basically a little world in a box. Use your imagination – the possibilities are endless, and it’s also a great way to recycle trash.
2. Books: The ideal way to get a reluctant reader attached to books. You can also get ABC or number books in the theme of your choice. If they are interested, you can also get them books that describe the science behind their obsession.
3. DVDs/YouTube: There are cartoon characters of nearly every shape and size these days, and it is quite likely that you’ll find one that matches your little child’s obsession. Also apart from junkie music videos, YouTube is also a treasure trove of interesting videos about how things work. WARNING: Don’t leave your kid alone with the internet.
4. Crafts: Again, Google to the rescue. There are, I think, millions of craft blogs out there, and pinterest is a huge help here. Crafts relating to a child’s interest can be very educational and as we all know, ‘doing’ is always the best way to learn.
5. Puzzles: Perfect for some quiet time for your child, when he’s already had his fill of screen time and is too fidgety for books. They are inexpensive, available in a wide variety of themes and doesn’t need someone else to play with.
6. Cooking: Pinterest, blogs, kid-special cookery books. You can make shapes out of anything – cakes, cookies, chapattis. So use your imagination, and get your kid involved in creating a culinary masterpiece. Bonus: Great way to get him to eat those finicky vegetables!
So you see, there are lots of ways to channel your little bub’s obsession into creative ways, rather than the obvious one of just buying them more and more cars/trains/trucks/dolls. Save money, engage your brain, recycle and have fun!!
Fabida Abdulla is a former software engineer turned stay at home Mother Lion to her four-year old son, whom she calls ‘The Cub’. She blogs about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes.