Joseph is still absolutely fascinated by dinosaurs and they occupy a significant part of almost every day. While pondering how absorbed he is by this topic recently, I remembered a conversation I had while visiting a potential infant school back in the winter of 2011. To be honest I already knew that I would like Joseph to learn without school, but Oliver had yet to come to that decision and we wanted to keep our options open. If Joseph were going to attend school then the child-initiated time in reception year was very important to me, and so as we were shown around our local primary school by the Head Teacher I asked whether during child-initiated time the children were literally given time simply to explore whatever they wanted to. She replied,
"Yes...although obviously if there is a child who just wants to play with cars all the time we would encourage them to play with something else."
I wanted to ask why, to tell her that I'd be quite happy for my son to play with cars all day and that I believe a child could explore just about any subject I can imagine if there were an interested adult available to help them expand their fascination in cars, but it wasn't the time or the place. That's not how school works, I understand that. They have a curriculum to provide.
So at home (and out and about almost everywhere we go) Joseph's dinosaur fascination continues! He reads books about them, watches films and documentaries about them, draws/paints/chalks pictures of them, role-plays dinosaur games, plays dinosaur related games on the iPad, plays with model dinosaurs, makes model dinosaurs and digs for dinosaur bones, to name just a few activities from the top of my head!
In these games he continues to explore all sorts of topics; he recently became interested in how dinosaurs made eggs (and what they needed to do to make them) so we talked about reproduction, he explores how parents cared for their young, he learns about volcanos and meteorites and their impact on the earth and its environment, he thinks about the food chain, and he has become interested in evolution. A couple of days ago Oliver and I found these installations on the edge of the bath!
He told his Oliver that this depicts the evolution of boats!
...and this the evolution of fish!
I've heard him tell Oliver several times recently "Daddy did you know that when you see an Eagle it came from a Velociraptor?"
We were driving somewhere a few weeks ago when Joseph asked if he could go to 'Dinosaur Land', meaning the place depicted in a dinosaur film he likes to watch. We talked about how this place does not exist on earth, and that it came from a person's imagination and was created by them using a computer to make a film. Joseph loved this idea and wanted to turn something from his own imagination into a film, so he made his own dinosaur film using my iPad! He filmed it in scenes and created a story about a male and female Triceratops who lived in a cave and had a baby, and after the eruption of a volcano and a meteorite hitting earth, were forced to move their home to a place of safety! There was also a Tyrannosaurus Rex to add a bit of carnivore drama! He created a 'set' using things around the house. Below is a volcano we made using a tagine, set amongst the ashes of our fireplace!
In the last 2 weeks Joseph has become a fan of the Jurassic Park films and has now watched all three. They don't scare him at all as we thought they might, it seems that because he knows they are robotic dinosaurs he understands that the action is pretend. We watch the 'making of' documentaries too, and he enjoys seeing how the dinosaurs, special effects and sounds are created. We found the soundtrack for him on the Internet, and the stirring music has a huge impact on him. He leapt into Oliver's arms in excitement the first time he played it to him! Now that he knows the story lines of the films Joseph watches with attention to the detail and order of things, and discusses how he will recreate aspects within our home. He likes to dress up as Dr Alan Grant from the first and third films, wear a dinosaur puppet on his hand and act out dramatic scenes, often 'directing' his brothers! Recently I found Callum and Charlie like this...
Joseph told me he had given them 'cuts' so they looked more like authentic characters from a Jurassic Park film! It looks like stage/film make-up might be a related interest we explore next...I'm hoping that may be a bit easier to wash off than red pen!
I've never felt the need to encourage Joseph to play with something other than dinosaurs, not when this play is taking him to such fascinating places! Oliver and I enjoy persuing this interst with him, allowing it to expand in as many ways as we can. His grandparents have taken him to the Natural History Museum in London, our friends and family are generous with dinosaur related gifts and I recently took him to a dinosaur workshop at a local Wildlife Park. There he learned that Pterodactyls were not dinosaurs at all but flying reptiles, and he is thrilled to have this new information!
Perhaps this fascination will last his lifetime and he'll peruse a career in paeleontology, or perhaps it will end next week when he discovers something new. It doesn't matter to me; he is happy, he is motivated, he is thriving, he is learning. Wherever his fascination goes we'll follow it together, for as long as he wants to.