What does your child love? Is it dinosaurs or volcanoes? Is it a certain movie with its cast of characters or a television show that captures his or her imagination? And why does it matter?

It matters quite a lot, and I’ll tell you why. When you can engage your child’s passionate interests, you open the door to all manner of opportunities for extended learning.

Suppose your child shows an interest in volcanoes—what they are, what they do and how they affect the environment. Think of the learning you can offer as you answer your child’s questions, find resource materials to inform your conversations and maybe spend some time drawing or creating a model volcano. You’ll be teaching science, and you’ll be encouraging an inquisitive mind at the same time.

The wonderful thing about passionate interests is that they change over time. Next week or month, you may be tracking down information on insects, planets or birds. Your job is to facilitate all the learning possible while your child absolutely loves that topic.

Another wonderful thing about passionate interests is the motivation to learn is already established. All you have to do as a parent is provide time, space and materials to support learning. Your child will benefit in so many ways.

Benefits of extending learning about current passions

  • Children learn to focus their attention on a topic.

  • They learn to engage and take risks, improving their body of knowledge or skills.

  • They learn to set goals such as memorizing all the characteristics of a certain animal or understanding the habitat of a certain bird.

  • They learn how to ask good questions and follow up with research.

  • They learn how to think clearly and logically as they pursue their interest.

  • They learn there are experts in any field of study, and they can become an “expert” in a certain area too.

  • They learn the world is full of a vast amount of information, and they can access it as they choose.

  • They see themselves as successful and intelligent learners.

Here are some ways you can encourage your child in his or her chosen passions 

  • Encourage your child to write about, draw or otherwise represent the topic. Create stories about the topic using family members as characters. Create artwork related to the topic. Encourage pretend play related to the subject matter.

  • Find all the supportive materials you can at your local library. That may include both fiction and non-fiction books, photos, coloring books, maps, charts and graphs or videos.

  • Find websites that offer factual information, games and videos related to the topic.

  • Provide space and time in your home to pursue the topic. You may want to clear space on a bookshelf or table for collections of materials or space on a wall or the refrigerator door for artwork related to the topic.

  • Take the time to read with your child about the topic and have conversations to extend learning. Answer questions as you can or be willing to help your child do research to enrich understandings.

  • You may want to commit to spending some money to purchase books or other items. Or you may want to visit local museums, zoos, attend presentations—anything that relates to the current passion.

  • Be a model for your child by following your own interests and passions. Share your enthusiasm for learning about your current interests.

Capitalizing on your child’s current interests is something you can begin to do when your child is very young. Pretend play and drawing pictures is a great place to start. And then, as your child grows and matures, you can introduce ever-expanding ways to extend learning and dig into research.

It’s good to remember that your child’s passions are their own. It’s not productive to choose the interest for them, but once the passion is identified, you can begin to support learning in countless ways.

Success in school and in life depends on being able to master various bodies of knowledge. Give your child a head start in achievement by sparking their current passions and interests.