Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Obsession or Genius?

My son does well at math, but science may be his favorite subject in school. Kai has a passion for learning about things, whether it is creatures, plants, planets, or pretty much anything else. He is very curious and enjoys trying his own science experiments to see what happens. So far, he has not blown up the house. Maybe next year.

For Christmas, he received several science-related presents from his thoughtful relatives, mostly involving planets, including a book, video, and games. Over time, I have no doubt that he will enjoy all of them.

But, Kai tends to obsess about things. When he took it upon himself to learn the Hebrew alphabet, he couldn’t learn just a letter or two a day; he had to learn the whole alphabet in a couple days. And, when he discovered the order the fifty states became part of the United States, he had to learn that as quickly as possible, too.

Numbers feed his obsessions. Once he sees a number attached to a set, he will want to go through the entire set from one to whatever. That is why we’ve had to endure all the Kidz Bop CDs from #1 to #18; I’m sure he will be ecstatic to learn that Kidz Bop 19 is due out next month.

And so, on Christmas morning, when he opened a present called “Electronic Snap Circuits” and saw on the box that it said “Build over 300 exciting projects,” he had to get started on them right away.

The toy is actually quite neat. It educates kids on how electrical circuits run everyday devices. It comes with over 60 pieces including wires, resistors, switches, capacitors, lights, and a speaker that all snap together easily. The booklet gives instructions on projects that include making a doorbell, a noise-activated burglar alarm, electric fan, and AM radio among many other things.

Although it is recommended for kids 8 and up, the first several projects were very easy for Kai. He got through ten projects very quickly. When they started to get a bit harder after that, he got a bit frustrated and we thought he should take a break to play with his other new toys. At first, he resisted, but then he agreed.

But first, he had to get a calculator. There are 305 projects in the book. He punched in the numbers and figured out that if he did two projects a day, it would take 152.5 days to complete all of them. That was too long. If he did five a day, it would take only 61 days. He finally decided that he would do ten a day. That way, he could finish everything in about a month. We agreed that ten a day seemed reasonable as we didn’t want him to do too much at once.

He watched his new video about the planets. But, after that, he wanted to do ten more projects. Okay, we said, but that will be all for today. Then, you have to play with other toys. He agreed. Until he finished those ten projects. Then he wanted to do ten more. And that is when we said no. We took away the box and told him he could have it again the next day.

I’ve heard that some geniuses like composers and inventors obsess over whatever it is they are passionate about and that is what enables them to be so successful. That may be true. But, I don’t think it is healthy for a six year old boy to obsess over one toy, no matter how educational it is.

He whined and protested and got mad that he couldn’t play with it any longer that day. But, finally, we did get him to do some other things, all of which he enjoyed.

The next day, though, he went right back to the electrical projects. He even had several of the pieces with him at the breakfast table, talking with them like other little kids would talk with their stuffed animals or dolls. Yesterday, he did many more projects. When I last looked, he was up to project #103. At this rate, he will finish project #305 before the end of winter break.

For those of you who gave him another toy for Christmas, have no worries. He will soon be done with this one and then it will be on to something else. It won’t be long before we will be telling him that he has to stop playing with one of your gifts.

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