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Interests turned into obsession?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I have a question about an "extreme interest" in a 4 year old, that seems to almost be an obsession! I am wondering if any other parent has experienced something similar and how to handle it.

My ds is obsessed with firetrucks/firefighters. It has been like this for probably about 2 years now, just getting stronger and stronger. At this point he pretty much exclusively plays firefighter. He turns everything into a firefighting game somehow. He talks about firetrucks all day long. He makes siren noises the whole time we drive somewhere.

His birthday was in November and everyone knows he loves firetrucks. He received 6 firetrucks and a fireman dress up set. This is in addition to the firetruck & firehouse he already had, plus his fireman rain coat and rain boots.

For Christmas we really encouraged him to branch out and look around for some new ideas and likes. Among other things, he received a pirate ship and some astronaut/space figures. After the first day the pirate ship sat totally unused. Until...the police arrested the pirates, the firemen took over the ship and turned it into a fireboat. Now it gets used every day--as a fireboat.

Once ds realized all his unused toys could be repurposed into firefighter toys, that is what he did. His astronauts now drive firetrucks too. His cardboard playhouse is a firetruck. When he dresses himself he only picks firetruck shirts. His Duplo tanker truck is a firetruck. The Duplo police station is a firehouse. He only draws pictures of firetrucks. He literally talks about firetrucks all.day.long. It never stops. Every conversation is about firemen somehow. He takes dd's dollhouse and pretends it is on fire and saves her dolls with his trucks. Library books are all about firetrucks or firemen, always.

Help?!
post #2 of 12
Don't worry.
Ds' obsessions were:
Age 2-4 was garbage trucks.
Age 4 - 5 1/2 was firetrucks.
Age 5 1/2 - 8 was buses.

He spent the first half of kindergarten drawing fire trucks. He spent the second half of kindergarten drawing buses. I don't think he ever drew anything else. I've got about 5 well loved fire truck t-shirts that he's outgrowing. (Bus and garbage truck t-shirts don't exist, or he'd have worn them!)

He would put on his fire fighter outfit and play fire fighter a lot. I'd be the alarm and the dispatcher. He'd ask me to come visit the 'station' (our bedroom) and give us a tour of the 'trucks' (our bed).

He's 1 month shy of nine, and for the first time in 7 years, he doesn't have an obsession. He's at loose ends sometimes because he doesn't have a set something to play. I kind of miss his obsessions.

He learned a lot from his obsessions and they didn't prevent him from doing other things. Some kids are just very focused. In adulthood, it will be a good quality.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Well that is comforting!! Thank you! Most of the time it is cute but sometimes I feel like it is crazy making (for me). None of his peers have any obsessions like this! I did not expect it to last so long and once we started closing in on two years with no end in sight I started questioning whether it is normal, whether I should be feeding it or encouraging other interests.
post #4 of 12
I think it is sweet. Sounds like he'll be a really focused young man.
post #5 of 12
Oh, we get obsessions here! At that age it was trains, especially Thomas, till about 5ish. Then it was ice and penguins for about 6 months, then volcanoes and hot lava for another 6 months, and now it is all about Star Wars (he is now 7). He can tell you in which episode each event occurs, knows all the characters, would spend hours playing Star Wars Lego on the Wii or watching the movies again if I would let him, wears a Star Wars shirt any time he can, has a lot of Star Wars Lego sets that he and daddy have built together and spends a lot of time playing with those, and is always making laser and light saber sounds. In fact, in church Sunday, since it was Palm Sunday, I had to take away his palm as he was trying to use it as a light saber and making noises in church.

I figure the obsessions are awesome learning opportunities! DS has a lot of those early reader books in Star Wars themes, so he can practice his reading (he is in first grade). When it was Thomas and trains, we learned to recognize colors and numbers by whatever the different engines had. When the obsession was penguins, we got books about them and learned about the different types of penguins, and about the fact that they are birds and the differences between birds and other animals like mammals or reptiles. When it was volcanoes, we had books about those and learned a lot of geology. Now with Star Wars, he asks a lot of questions about good vs. evil, etc., so I use that as a starting point in conversations about our religious and spiritual beliefs. I bet your DS would love books about different types of fire trucks, or different methods fire fighters use to fight fires, or fire safety. Use it as a way to practice family fire drills, teach him about 911 and how to use it properly, etc. Think of it this way...at least he is not obsessed with Barney!
post #6 of 12
Strawberry,

Our situation sounds EXACTLY like yours. Frankly, if we think about it too much, it terrifies us.

Our son has had the same obsession since he was two. He is now 6 with little sign of diminishing interest in the subject.

EVERYTHING is about firefighting....or fire...

We've thought about removing all of his fire related toys, but have stopped short of that for fear that it will just make the interest stronger.

I'm relieved to see some indication that this might be a passing phase. But others who have posted in this thread describe "obsessions" of a much shorter duration than happens to be the case with our child.

Should we be doing something here? Right now, I kind of feel like we are ignoring a potential problem.
post #7 of 12
I think that it is worth a little bit of caution. My ds possibly has asperger's syndrome and so we try to discourage the one track obsession. We've been able to convince him to branch out his interests. I don't think that an obsession ALWAYS indicates a problem. But watch for clues that it will interfere with his development, especially socially.

Does it interfere with his social interactions with other children? Is he willing to let another child choose an activity or is he always the leader? In a group setting (preschool, story time, etc) is he willing to pay attention to another subject? Does he realize that other people have other interests and a different body of knowledge? Does he throw huge fits if someone rearranges his play set up?

I think, just make sure he's on track for his age, socially, verbally, school readiness, etc. If he is, I wouldn't worry about it.
post #8 of 12
We've had a wide range of obsessions with our boys over the years as well, some stronger and longer lasting than others. All of them have eventually phased out, and so far I have healthy, well adjusted children who are very bright and social.

For DS1, it was Clifford the Big Red Dog up until age 3, at which time it switched to all things trains until about age 6, and now it's definitely legos- of all kinds (he's 7 years old).

For DS2, it was pirates (and I mean, EVERYTHING was pirate-esque) from age 2-4, and this year (at almost 5) he is also obsessed with legos, but specifically Star Wars ones and any and all things Star Wars.

I personally feel that this is normal, and it must have something to do with their developmental phases. The only thing about it that bothers me is the commercialism involved, but I've given up on trying to control that- it's too much of a pain. I just try to limit their exposure to the scary or violent aspects of their obsessions (for example, they've only seen the older Star Wars movies and we don't own any lightsabers, weapons, etc...).

Jessica, Mom of Three
Wife to David
DS #1 (age 7)
DS #2 (age 4)
Going to meet our first DD in a few weeks!
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by civi987 View Post
Strawberry,

Our situation sounds EXACTLY like yours. Frankly, if we think about it too much, it terrifies us.

Our son has had the same obsession since he was two. He is now 6 with little sign of diminishing interest in the subject.

EVERYTHING is about firefighting....or fire...

We've thought about removing all of his fire related toys, but have stopped short of that for fear that it will just make the interest stronger.

I'm relieved to see some indication that this might be a passing phase. But others who have posted in this thread describe "obsessions" of a much shorter duration than happens to be the case with our child.

Should we be doing something here? Right now, I kind of feel like we are ignoring a potential problem.
In my kids I've seen an obsessive interest that is a sign (one sign among others) of an underlying something. In his case he's mildly on the autism spectrum. He has been obsessed with trains from 2 to now (he's six). I think trains will always be a love of his but I'm seeing more branching out now in his play themes and the stories he creates. They are often about something other than trains. But...he's still consumed by trains and spends a lot of time talking about them, designing tracks, studying train books. etc.

His twin is not at all on the spectrum and has no signs of anything amiss developmentally (he's neurotypical). He's had obsessive interests too over the years though his have changed (space, then buildings/skyscrapers, etc.) My very neurotypical nephew is entirely consumed by Star Wars and has been for a long time. I don't see it ending anytime soon.

Spectrum child had other signs of issues (delayed pointing and other nonverbal use as well as limited nonverbal use and atypical reading of nonverbal and facial expressions in others for example). He's quirky socially. He's got more going on than an obsession with trains.

If the only thing your child has is a fire truck obsession and everything else is typical I wouldn't worry.
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by StrawberryFields View Post
After the first day the pirate ship sat totally unused. Until...the police arrested the pirates, the firemen took over the ship and turned it into a fireboat. Now it gets used every day--as a fireboat.
I think that is genius!

Most likely it isn't a problem. I think younger kids tend to fixate like that for a long time. As long as he is typical in most other ways I wouldn't be too worried. We have had obsessions here, too. Firetrucks have been big for a long time. We've also had a cars obsession and currently have a dragon/dinosaur obsession. For the most part, in most kids, it's a normal part of development.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsMike View Post
I think that is genius!

Most likely it isn't a problem. I think younger kids tend to fixate like that for a long time. As long as he is typical in most other ways I wouldn't be too worried. We have had obsessions here, too. Firetrucks have been big for a long time. We've also had a cars obsession and currently have a dragon/dinosaur obsession. For the most part, in most kids, it's a normal part of development.
Yeah... I had to catch a picture of the firemen seizing the pirate ship

http://tinyurl.com/2ax8mz4
post #12 of 12

Hi, I know this thread is a couple of years old but I was wondering if any of the posters are still here if they would be willing to share updates. In searching the archives to find discussions similar to my concerns, this conversation pretty much describes where I am right now.

 

My son is 26 months. From the time he first started really playing with toys, cars and trucks were a favorite, so much so that I wondered if it was a little extreme. Then a few months ago his interests really expanded: he spent a lot of time playing instruments and listening to music, building with blocks, playing with stuffed animals, and reading books. Cars and trucks were still there but in the background. Then about 4 weeks ago he all but dropped those interests and returned to cars and trucks almost exclusively. If it's not an actual car or truck, it's another toy he's turned into a car or truck.

 

I guess one of my biggest concerns is that his development on all fronts has been seeming to move consistently in a positive direction, but is this a step back?

 

So, I'm wondering what the last couple of years have brought for previous posters. Have the interests gotten broader? Have they started to interfere with daily life/learning/socialization? Does anyone have greater insight into how to know whether it's just toddler passion vs. "an underlying something"? (a previous poster's term).

 

Thanks so much.

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