As a grown-up you may not be able to tell an ankylosaurus from a deinonychus, but your five-year-old might surprise you. He (it could easily be a she too: experts say there isn’t enough evidence to support the theory that boys like dinosaurs more than girls) might even be able to enlighten you about ankylosaurus’ eating habits or deinonychus’ killing claws.
“Many children are fascinated by the idea of living creatures that predated humans,” says Dr Paul Curran, Specialist Psychologist/Consultant Educational Psychologist at Dubai London Clinic and Specialty Hospital. And Dubai Garden Glow’s Dinosaur Park caters to this fascination.
The park takes you on a journey, from the dawn of the dinosaurs through the three periods - Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous - to the end, showcasing more than 100 prehistoric creatures that move and roar.
From their evolution in the Triassic period, about 230 million years ago, to their extinction in the late Cretaceous period, these spectacular animals dominated the Earth for about 140 million years. As depicted at the Dinosaur Park, their story is awe-inspiring. At the same time, there is a lesson about nature for children, bringing evolution and extinction into focus.
Part of the charm of dinosaurs for children is also the fact that they are extinct, says Dr Curran. “Therefore there is no chance of running into them or ever coming to any harm.”
That feeling of security piques their interest further and helps them get closer to their subjects and learn about how they lived and what they ate.
Seven-year-old Abdul Hayy is at the park for the first time with his family. He’s excited about seeing life-size replicas of dinosaurs he loves.
“My favourites are triceratops and tyrannosaurus,” he says.
Thirteen-year-old Mariam Sharjeel’s choice is different. She finds deinonychus fascinating. “I like deinonychus the best because it was a carnivore that was very agile and fast.”
Studies have shown that the intense interests children develop between the ages of 2 and 6 in particular topics such as vehicles or dinosaurs are extremely beneficial.
“Sustained intense interests are a confidence booster for children and can help them develop cognitive skills such as information processing, focusing on a topic, concentration and gaining expertise in the learning process,” explains Dr Curran.
Sustained intense interests are a confidence booster for children and can help them develop cognitive skills such as information processing, focusing on a topic, concentration and gaining expertise in the learning process.
“Older children with intense interests tend to have high-average or above-average intelligence.”
So if your child is keen on dinosaurs, feed their curiosity with books, cartoons, documentaries and trips to Dinosaur Park.
Even though they may seem fixated on the idea of becoming a palaeontologist when they grow up, chances of that happening are slim, says Dr Curran. “Researchers suggest most children with an early interest in dinosaurs won't become palaeontologists, although as adults they do develop a lifelong interest in biology and all things scientific.”
For six-year-old Diganth Gowda K.N., Dinosaur Park is a treasure trove of not only gigantic prehistoric creatures but also long names that don’t roll off the tongue.
“I like the names,” says the second-time visitor to the park as he reels off his favourite dinosaurs - tyrannosaurus, triceratops, velociraptors.
For others like Lyn Khouri, a visit to the park sparks an interest in the massive creatures and is a learning experience.
“I didn’t know there were these many kinds of dinosaurs,” says the ten-year-old.
“My favourite is the long-necked Apatosaurus,” she says.