The Salt the Sandbox website has been deleted.

The world has changed a lot since I started the Salt the Sandbox website almost 20 years ago. Back then I used the website to tell my family’s day-in-the-life stories as we engaged with our interests in insects, cars, dinosaurs, rocks, and more. Now everyone can share their own families’ stories continuously on social media.


The homepage of the Salt the Sandbox website, established in August, 2000.

The old Salt the Sandbox website also listed activities parents with extremely interested children could do to engage with their children’s interests. Now you can find an overabundance of activity ideas on Pinterest, parenting blogs, and more.

And if, in the past, you’ve used the Neighborhood Rocks website to help identify rocks you found, there are now Facebook groups where you’ll find lots of rock collectors to discuss your specimens.

I may decide to bring back at least a few pages from the old Salt the Sandbox website. If you’ve got some ideas about resources that would be particularly useful to you, please describe them in the comments section, below, and I’ll see what I can do.

If you want to see what the old Salt the Sandbox website looked like, you can visit the Wayback Machine:  (Please note that the internal links within the archived saltthesandbox website work, but most of the external links do not.)
I also preserved most of the pages as Word files.

Salon just published an article about the “rage to master.”

The article starts out with a discussion of how the “rage to master” helps propel profoundly gifted children to do amazing things when they are young. After that the author, Tom Clynes, focuses more on the interrelationships of genetics and environment in developing expertise. He closes with a discussion of a specific aspect of the environment: The early exposure to a field and subsequent adult support that can help a gifted child achieve at high levels. As Clynes writes, “Formal schooling is just one piece of the prodigy puzzle, which also includes parenting, personal characteristics, social/ emotional development, family aspects (such as birth order, gender, and traditions), access to resources, and historical forces and trends. When all those things happen to be in coordination and are sustained for a sufficient period, a child born with extraordinary potential can bloom. When one or more elements are missing, inborn talent is more likely to wither.”  Interestingly, “rage to master” isn’t listed as one of the puzzle pieces, although it may be subsumed in the category “personal characteristics.”

From my viewpoint, the “rage to master” seems like another way of talking about the kind of extremely intense interest that is the focus of this blog. I’m a bit frustrated that the rest of the article shifted away from the “rage to master” theme. However, that does fit a pattern I’ve seen in the literature: Extreme interests intertwine with many other aspects of life, and it can be hard to focus on extremely intense interest as a separate quality. I would also note that extreme interest in children is, to some degree, independent of intelligence, although maintaining intense interests may be dependent on adult support (or at least lack of adult interference and distraction). I’m interested in the roles that intense interest can play in the lives of all children, not those with high intelligence or other gifts.

Here’s the link to the Salon article:

The article is an excerpt from a book by Clynes, “THE BOY WHO PLAYED WITH FUSION: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star”  I’ve already placed an order for this book.

New paper about kids developing and sustaining interests.

The Relating Research to Practice website just posted a summary of what looks like a really interesting research paper: “Multiple routes for the development and pursuit of interests” by Brigid Barron.

Here’s a link to the Research to Practice summary:

Here’s a link to the paper’s abstract:

I’ll probably have more to add once I read the original article.

Young Children’s Extremely Intense Interests: Links to Resources Discussed at the Symposium Play Station

On February 20 Eric presented a play station exhibit at the Collaboration for Early Childhood’s 2015 Symposium. This year’s theme was, “Dance of Diversity: Meeting the Unique Needs of Every Child.” Intense interests are one way that young children can be unique.

The play station was entitled, Supporting Young Children’s Extremely Intense Interests: A work in progress….  An extremely intense interest was defined as “a passionate, sometimes bordering on obsessive, fascination with and attraction to a particular category of objects or activities” (after DeLoache, Simcock, & Macari, 2007).  The “work in progress” tagline was added because I wanted participants to help me figure out how I can best support parents and other caregivers who want to support their children’s extremely intense interests.

Below there are links to resources mentioned at the Play Station:

If I forgot to post anything here, you can either email me at or post a comment, below.

The Science Learning Activation Lab

The Science Learning Activation Lab is a new research and development project whose goal is “to learn and demonstrate how we can activate children’s interest and curious minds in ways that ignite persistent engagement in science learning and inquiry.”  Here’s the link:

Any project that focuses on children’s interests in science is interesting to me, especially when it includes a longitudinal research study. Some of the early findings were described in on the website’s research page:

I particularly enjoyed reading this poster, that looked at the avenues that scientists and science educators followed to their careers. Two of those avenues–islands of expertise and connection to nature–are of particular interest to me:

So, I’m going to be following the Science Learning Activation Lab project as it develops over the next few years.

A New Paper about When Scientists First Got Interested in Science

Lately I’ve been too busy with the kinds of work that earn money to post on this blog. However, here’s one piece of news I couldn’t resist posting.

It’s a new paper by Adam V. Maltese and Robert H. Tai about how scientists got started on what would eventually become their career paths. The paper has a great title: “Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of early interest in science.” You can read an Education Week blog post about the research by clicking here. The abstract is available online by clicking here. (Unfortunately, most people can’t read the whole article unless they gain access through a research library system.)

Here are some key points from the paper:

  • It was an interview study with 116 scientists and graduate students about what got them started with their interests in science.
  • The study focused on “the timing, source, and nature of their earliest interest in science.”
  • Most of the respondents (65%) said their interest in science began before middle school.
  • Females were more likely to say their interest was sparked by school-related activities.
  • Males were more likely to say they got interested because of something that happened before or after school.
  • The authors point out that these findings have policy implications, since many efforts aimed at encouraging new scientists begin in high school and above.

Now, some points from me:

  • None of this surprises me, because I’ve been following the research on children’s interests for many years.
  • There has been quite a bit of research on children’s interests of late, starting with kids as young as preschool.
  • The gender-related findings are not surprising because research on younger children shows that boys, for whatever reason, have been much more likely to develop strong science-related interests early in life.
  • The efforts aimed at high school and above are still important, because so many kids who develop early science-related interests move on to other interests as they grow.

There’s so much more I could say that I could write a book about it — perhaps eventually I will.

By the way, thanks to @sciencegoddess for posting about this paper on Twitter. Her post started an interesting Twitter stream about this research, which you can access by clicking here.

Kids’ Interests Can Be Both Strengths and Potential Problems

One of the themes of this blog will be that kids with deep interests can be both wonderful and hard to live with. Another thread I’ll keep coming back to is the relationship between deep interests and giftedness. So, it’s no wonder that this post from the ByrdSeed blog caught my attention: 10 Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted.

The first item on the author’s list is:

  1. Be aware that strengths and potential problems can be flip sides of the same coin.

    Strength: diverse interests and abilities; versatility.  Potential Problem: may appear disorganized or scattered; frustrated over lack of time… (read more)

Well, that sounds familiar — some kids like that are very near to my heart! (See, for instance, this web page from Ethan’s Dinosaurs.) Although the list item is about diverse interests rather that deep interests, I’ve know lots of kids who get really interested in a topic, then develop another passionate interest after a month or two without completely giving up on the first one. (See Ethan’s Dinosaurs again.)

I guess my point is that the strength — the ability to develop and sustain passionate interests — can make life challenging for kids, parents, and teachers. One of the things I’ll be thinking and blogging about is how adults can meet — and enjoy living with — that challenge.


Thanks to the chain of TwitterFolk who turned me on to this post, with @marciamarcia the most recent Tweeter.

Using Block Parties to Cultivate and Support Kids’ Interests in Nature and Science

I’ve been running our neighborhood’s block party for about 10 years now. Over those years, our neighbors have been very receptive to me using party activities to encourage their children’s interests in nature and science.

The theme for this year’s block party is “No Child Left Inside.” We will focus on getting kids outside to be with and appreciate nature. However, we will also show kids things they can do outside if they are more interested in cars, trucks, and trains — or other kinds of science.

I posted a discussion and preliminary schedule on my other blog, Neighborhood Nature. Please go here to read it!

A New Blog About Supporting Children’s Deep and Passionate Interests

I’m starting this blog as a way to develop my ideas about why and how parents should support their children’s deep and passionate interests in nature, science, technology, or whatever else catches their fancy. If you’ve been wondering about why your child has developed an almost obsessive interest in dinosaurs, rocks, trains, Pokemon, or vacuum cleaners — and what to do about it — then this may be the blog for you!

This blog is an adjunct to my existing website,, which describes some of the interests my children, Ethan and Aaron, have gone through as they’ve grown, and how my wife, Gail, and I supported them. I’m planning a bunch of posts on a range of topics related to children’s interests, including research and book reviews, interviews, thought pieces, and stories about how families — including ours — have supported their children’s passionate interests.

First, a word about the organization of this blog. Like all blogs, posts here in the center of the page will be sequenced in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top). However, my experience with our Neighborhood Nature blog leads me to suspect that most folks will discover any given post weeks or months after it was written. So, I’ve tried to organize the sidebars to the left more like standard navigation menus, based more on content and less on when posts were written. (However, given my limited Web development skills, I’ve had to use blog tools to construct the menus, so some of the menu sections will have to develop over time, as I add posts in particular categories with specific tags.)

That’s it for now. I hope you find my later posts enjoyable and/or useful!