Written by Amida of Journey into Unschooling
At one time or another, children will go through phases where they are consumed by a subject or hobby. Through the years, we’ve been taken over by Calvin and Hobbes, Harry Potter, and Horrible History, among a host of other infatuations.
Sometimes, these may not be desirable to us. We may not always understand or see the possible educational benefits of leafing through piles of Captain Underpants. It may even cross our minds to limit their exposure to these passing crazes and replace them with something more beneficial or academic.
I think though, that a little obsession does a body good.
It is at these moments of intense study that one really learns. When my eight-year-old was into Pokemon, he pored over a 600-plus guide day and night and studied the ins and outs of the trading card game, learned every character’s weaknesses and strengths, and became the household’s best player.
Sure, we may think Pokemon is nothing, but to that eight-year-old, it was a source of pride and accomplishment — something he was very good at.
Calvin and Hobbes encourages imagination (cardboard boxes become transmogrifiers, duplicators, and time machines), Harry Potter can lead to excelled readers (Order of the Phoenix contains a staggering 870 pages in the US version!), and Horrible History will give an excellent overview of historical people, events, and even little known trivia.
It may be harder to find the charm in those obsessions you’ve never taken to yourself. But even Dungeons and Dragons can fine tune analytical skills (is it worth going into dungeon A and risk annihilation just for the sake of acquiring a treasure) and get your child pondering the mathematical probability of rolling a twenty and defeating the monsters.
Deadliest Warriors may encourage an in depth study of different weapons and their strategical advantages, as well as a further study into the differences between ancient warriors. Beanie Babies can boost money management skills as your child compares re-sale values of their collectibles and possible profits.
Remember that time in your own childhood when Sanrio stationery and mechanical pencil fobs were the coolest things ever and all your parents ever got you were binder paper and yellow #2 pencils? Don’t you wish someone had just understood?
Now is your chance. Encourage the obsession, as long as there is no danger in it. What your child gains from it may surprise the both of you.
What healthy obsessions interest your children?
I haven’t thought about Sanrio in ages…I used to be addicted Sanrio/Hello Kitty. I’m going to have to head over to their site- you know, just to see what they have…
Deadliest Warrior has quite a following among the boys in my house. Now, when my mother-in-law makes a comment about how inappropriate it is, I can tell her that my son is learning. (And he really is- He loves discussing the outcome of new combinations with my husband, and he knows what he is talking about…)
No Reimer Reason
My five year old daughter is addicted to the Super Mario Games. Over the last 6 months, her ability to play has greatly increased. She talks about Mario, Princess Peach, “Wigi” and Bowser all day long. The good that has come out of her obsession is that she likes to draw pictures and write about the characters. She even wrote a four page fan fiction book about them, illustrated and all. She sounded some of the words out and asked me how to spell others, but she wrote them all on her own. Hooray for the self-initiated writing and drawing practice over her summer break.
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Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black
I’ve needed to hear this: Pokemon in this house! “Don’t you wish someone had just understood?” Thanks for the reminder!
Oh my, thank you. My kids are “obsessed” with Mario, Wii, Pokemon, Lego, Bionicle,…. and yes, I’ve wondered about it. Thanks for putting it in perspective.
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SILLY BANDS!!!!! O M Goodness! they are taking over my house 🙂
I actually had to look up what in the world “silly bands” were. At first, I thought you guys meant silly music bands, but now realize you mean those shaped rubber bands. I’ve seen them around but had no idea they were collectible items! What will they come up with next?
I’m going to join my fellow commenters in thanking you for this post – it was a much needed reminder for me. We very much avoid the “newest” thing around here, but my rising 1st grader has gotten into Bakugans in recent months (something that I totally don’t get but works on math skills during “battles” with the other neighborhood boys) and the gentle reminder to be understanding of the source of pride this represents to him was a good one. And, Melanie, I feel your pain re: silly bands. I am definitely not a fan, but my oldest child cherishes his and he is learning about spending choices because he is using his own money to buy them. I am glad, again, for the reminder that they are precious to him and that he is learning SOMETHING from all of this.
My oldest son is absolutely obsessed with hot wheels cars and playing with them. I know he has over 400 cars and he told me one day he wants to own a miniature car of every vehicle in the world. I know a little ambitious but, hey, whatever! They don’t cost that much and most of them are still made of metal so I will be able to keep them for years to come. He loves anything to do with cars which my husband said is a good thing considering he could learn the skill of working on his own vehicles someday which could save him thousands of dollars!
My daughter is fascinated by dragons. She reads about them, draws and paints them, sculpts them, plays with her Webkinz dragons, etc. She knows everything you can possibly know about Chinese dragons, and other types of dragon fantasy. She has become quite expert at making beautiful dragons out of Sculpey clay, and her painting skills are amazing. Because of her love of dragon-ology I can see that it has helped her excel in other areas. I know that in a short amount of time she will focus on something else, and there will be another explosion of skills as a result. It’s not about the “thing” that she’s focused on, it’s about the peripheral benefits.
Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. Letting kids participate in trends or ‘fads’ (that aren’t inherently wrong or dangerous or unhealthy) sure, but letting them obsess on them, no. A big part of growing up is learning to be self-governing and self-controlled, and a big part of parenting is teaching them how to do so. This means helping them learn to enjoy a hobby, etc. in moderation and watching closely for when it might be becoming an UNhealthy addiction…. specifically when all of a child’s thoughts, energies, free time, etc. is spent on the ‘hobby,’ perhaps at the expense of time with family, friends, respecfulness to parents, etc. It’s a fine line to draw, but I’d rather have kids that know how to enter in with friends in fun things like trading silly bands or playing with Legos but are also well-rounded and diverse in their interests. Buying some silly bands is fine, and a good way to learn money-management, but eventually the parent might have to say, “No more… it’s simply not good stewardship to own ____ (insert # discerned by parent) of them!” NEVER would I allow a teenager (or child of any age!) to play video games all day. There’s so much more he/she needs to be doing and experiencing!! I have a HUGE problem with kids focusing on ‘dark’ things that involve evil and witchcraft, etc… as ‘meditating’ on these types of influences can breed darkness and a host of related problems in the child’s life. So Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, Deadliest Warriors, and Pokemon are not welcome in our house. “Encourage the obsession, as long as there’s no danger in it…” but unfortunately, there’s a lot of danger in quite a few of the obsessions you mentioned! Thanks for the thought-provoking post and the opportunity to ‘discuss.’ 🙂
Obviously, if the “obsession” turns into raving, mad lunacy, then, yes, any caring parent would put a stop to it. I was actually referring more along the lines of fleeting childhood hobbies others have mentioned — like the Hot Wheels, dragons, and yes, even Pokemon — and how a healthy interest in them can be enriching or even foster confidence in other areas of their lives. Whether you find your children’s object of affection harmless or a path to self-destruction is personal and something you can certainly discuss with them. As far as limits go, just because my kids like cookies doesn’t mean I will feed it to them 24-7. But I would certainly encourage them to study recipes, test out different ingredients, and design their own flavors, textures, and shapes. Thanks for your input!
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My oldest is obsessed with Thomas and trains. I let him spend a lot of time playing with his train sets or watching some videos. He can creates quite nice stories, well told too. But, it is the first thing to be taken away if he does not cooperate on other things.
I tend to disagree also. Sorry 🙁 We homeschool with a strange blend of Charlotte Mason and unschooling methods. We allow the kids unlimited access to just about anything in the house (tv and computer are exceptions.) There are books everywhere in our house, and most of them are twaddle free. We enjoy a good laugh so we do have our collection of just for fun books that Mrs. Mason would definitely not approve of. And the music is mostly classical or sacred. My son loves Beach Boys and Sam Cooke, but most of what we listen to is classical. Kids love what they know. And you as the parent can control what he/she knows. Especially if you homeschool. Some of my homeschooling friends see nothing wrong with their kids watching Hannah Montana and such. But what they see and hear sets the standard. They love what they know. Make sure what they know is worth loving.
Yes, my son has been obsessed with many things in turn… in kindergarten he was drawing trucks in great detail and 3-D and pointing out the details of passing pickup trucks. Then he moved on to other things… he and his sister pretended to be Bilbo Baggins and made hobbit-holes in the living room a lot. In the spring he was into the 100 Cupboards trilogy by N.D. Wilson. This summer he was really into a clubhouse he was “making” in the woods and its elaborate security system he imagined – it was wonderful to see him hammering scrap lumber together with his friend for furniture. He liked reading recipes on my iPod as much as I would allow it, and recently has been making rice and writing down the recipe. I do think it’s a good thing for their minds and – at this age – is often started by books we read that they want to act out. They are really taking in their books more deeply when they do that!
I can relate! My almost 4 year old has been obsessed with trains for two years! That’s a long time for a toddler! I think this one may stick for a long time, but we’ll see. Who knows, maybe I’m raising a future train engineer!
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LEGO is not something to be “worried” about fishmama. It can turn into a carrer or a very good hobby for adults. Don’t Believe me Google Sean Kenney (A professional LEGO builder he does not work for LEGO but is commissioned by companies to make sculptures and stuff), Chris Phipson (Police Officer, Great Builder, some innuendo in his stuff so keep some of his stuff away from the kids eyes don’t worry, he puts a warning to weather it really is innuendo, or if there is no warning but the title is an innuendo (Like in Kelso’s Wet Dream he is just leading you on to a visit to the Zoo on the banks of a river. Get it?), and Mark Kelso, (A professional artist) he is one of THE BEST builders ever to grace this Earth, he has a couple of references (like a reference to a condom because his MOC The Invisible Hand (A star wars SHIP) looks like one), and Nannan Z. (Actually I don’t know what he does.)The. Best. Builder. EVER.
It’s not every day that our work in the community of trying to bring adults and kids together in a safe and fun atmosphere is appreciated this far from our “own little corner of the world.” I’d like to thank you for pointing out that Lego isn’t just a kids toy, but something that grows with us and helps us express our creativity in new and fun ways. It makes me feel really good to know that the work we do doesn’t go unnoticed. Thank you so much. ~ Chris.
I know numbers of adult friend aging 25 and above playing Pokemon cards. And there was a time in a toy corner of the mall that both kids and adults are playing cards. 🙂 It is really nice to see that there are games that both adults and kids are enjoying.
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Lovely just what I was looking for.Thanks to the author for taking his clock time on this one.
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Yes! Yes! Yes to Sanrio stationary!! I still remember mine! It was periwinkle, my favorite color in 4th grade. 🙂
I loved reading this. As a toddler my son was devoted to Thomas the Train and could name dozens and dozens of them confidently, even though he could barely talk. Now at 7 he’s passionate about Pokemon and its wonderful to see him so absorbed by it. I think this level of focus is excellent practice for his future! I even learned how to play the card game so I could meet him at his level, and its been fun for both of us and gives us another way to connect.
I find some the comments disagreeing to be downright chilling — the level of “control” these parents seek will probably bite them in the end — i speak from experience. My mom also sought to control everything in my existence, homeschooling for further control, and when I finally grew up and escaped from her narrow little realm and discovered some of the big huge fascinating world out there she never even knew existed, I knew she had done myself and in the end, herself as well, a tremendous disservice.
THANK YOU!! My boys are really into Pokemon right now and I’ve been torn as we are usually not so into pop culture. After reading your post I’ve decided that a trip to the library for some Pokemon books is in order! I agree that children love to read about things they are interested in. My oldest daughter LOVES cats and began reading The Warriors series (all about cats!) and within 3 months she read all 26 novels in the series! Now she’s older and an EXCELLENT reader and truly loves classics but I doubt she would have gained confidence in reading or fell in love so deeply if I had decided The Warriors series was an unhealthy obsession OR not challenging enough. She occasionally likes to re-read a book from the series here and there but we have an agreement that if she re-reads one Warrior book then the next book she reads comes from a list of my suggestions. It’s been working beautifully and she is a very balanced girl. Just thought I’d share our experience! I agree with Erin above ^. I have tried to find balance in everything, though helping my children cultivate a taste for the good and beautiful.