Children’s Interests in Dinosaurs

Over the years I’ve collected lots of references to research and scholarship about children’s interests in dinosaurs. Here’s my current bibliography on that topic. (Some of the citations listed as “in press” have since been published, and I need to go back and fix that sort of thing.)

How and What Children Learn from Their Interest in Dinosaurs

Alexander, J. M., Johnson, K. E., & Schreiber, J. B. (2002). Knowledge is not everything: Analysis of children’s performance on a haptic comparison task. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82(4), 341-366. Identifying dinosaur models by touch – expert kids got it wrong sometimes because they were “hypothesis testing.”

Alexander, J. M., Johnson, K. E., Leibham, M. E., & DeBauge, C. (2005). Constructing domain-specific knowledge in Kindergarten: Relations among knowledge, intelligence, and strategic performance. Learning & Individual Differences, 15(1), 35-52.  Study involved dinosaurs.

Barba, R. H. (1995). Children’s tacit and explicit understandings of dinosaurs. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (April 1995), San Jose, California.

Chi, M. T. H., & Koeske, R. (1983). Network representation of a child’s dinosaur knowledge. Developmental psychology, 19, 29-39.

Crowley, K. & Jacobs, M. (2002). Islands of expertise and the development of family scientific literacy. In G. Leinhardt, K. Crowley, & K. Knutson (Eds.) Learning conversations in museums. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Evans, E. M., Schweingruber, H., & Stevenson, H. W. (2002). Gender differences in interest and knowledge acquisition: The United States, Japan, and Taiwan. Sex Roles, 47, 153-167.

Gobbo, C., & Chi, M. (1986). How knowledge is structured and used by expert and novice children. Cognitive Development, 1, 221-237.

Johnson, K. E., & Eilers, A. T. (1998). Effects of knowledge and development on subordinate level categorization. Cognitive Development, 13(4), 515-545. Children and adults – dinosaurs.

Johnson, K. E., Scott, P., & Mervis, C. B. (2004). What are theories for? Concept use throughout the continuum of dinosaur expertise. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 87(3), 171-200. Children and adults – dinosaurs.  Have pdf.

Klein, J. M. (2002). Children’s interpretations of computer-animated dinosaurs in live theatre: “Dinosaurus”. Lawrence, KS: University Theatre and Department of Theatre & Film.

Martin, M., et al.. (1991). A study of child-adult interaction at a natural history centre. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 17(2-3), 355-369.

Ni, Y. (1998). Cognitive structure, content knowledge, and classificatory reasoning. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 159(3), 280-296.

Palmquist, S., & Crowley, K. (2007). From teachers to testers: Parents’ role in child expertise development in informal settings. Science Education, 91(5), 712-732.

Palmquist, S. D. & Crowley, K. (in press). Studying dinosaur learning on an island of expertise. In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron, & S. Derry (Eds), Video Research in the Learning Sciences.

Poling, D. A., & Evans, E. M. (2004). Are dinosaurs the rule or the exception? Developing concepts of death and extinction. Cognitive Development, 19, 363–383.

Scott, P., & Mervis, C. B. (1993, March). The continuum of child expertise: The dinosaur domain. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, New Orleans, LA.

Tunnicliffe, S. D. (1996). The relationship between pupils’ age and the content of conversations generated at three types of animal exhibits. Research in Science Education, 26(4), 461-480.  [Includes discussion of animatronic dinosaurs.]

Tunnicliffe, S. D. (1999). It’s the way you tell it! What conversations of elementary school groups tell us about the effectiveness of animatronic animal exhibits. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 11(1), 23-37. [ERIC # EJ590308]

Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2000). Conversations of family and primary school groups at robotic dinosaur exhibits in a museum: What do they talk about? International Journal of Science Education, 22(7), 739-754.

Tunnicliffe, S. D., & Reiss, M. J. (2000). What sense do children make of three-dimensional, life-sized “representations” of animals? School Science and Mathematics, 100(3), 128-138. [Includes discussion of animatronic dinosaurs.

References that Discuss Why Children Develop Interests in Dinosaurs

Doniger, W. (1999, February 18). Mae West and the British Raj (Review of the book, The Last Dinosaur Book). London Review of Books, 21. Downloaded Jan. 5, 2007, from

Gyllenhaal, E. (September, 2002). Islands of expertise: Why do children become such specialists? Chicago Parent. Online at

Mitchell, W. J. T. (1998). Why children hate dinosaurs. In The last dinosaur book: The life and times of a cultural icon. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Scanlon, M., & Buckingham, D. (2003). Deconstructing dinosaurs: Imagery, fact, and fiction in information books. Bookbird, 41(1), 14-20?

Schowalter, J. E. (1979). When dinosaurs return: Children’s fascination with dinosaurs. Children Today, 8(3), 2-5.  Have paper copy. Includes a discussion of why kids are interested in them.  Informally reports findings of a teacher survey calling for information concerning the prevalence and general characteristics of children’s interest in dinosaurs.

Sturm, B. W. (2003). Dogs and dinosaurs, hobbies and horses: Age-related changes in children’s information and reading preferences. Children & Libraries, 1(3), 39-51. 

Willis, S. (1999). Imagining dinosaurs. In B. L. Clark & M. R. Higonnet (Eds.), Girls, boys, books, toys: Gender in children’s literature and culture (pp. 185-195). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Adults’ Remembered Interests in Dinosaurs

Black, M. S. (1999). Making American archaeologists: Memories of childhood fascination. Society for American Archeology Bulletin, 17(4). Downloaded Jan 4, 2007, from

Brockman, J. (Ed.). (2004). Curious minds: How a child becomes a scientist. New York: Pantheon.  OPPL 509.22 CUR.

Gould, S. K. (October 12, 1986). Children’s books. Still in my dinosaur phase. New York Times, p. 36.  Copy as Word and in EndNote.

Manning, P. L. (2007). Dinomummy: The life, death, and discovery of Dakota, a dinosaur from Hell Creek. New York: Kingfisher. As the Publisher’s Review review said, “When teenage dino-enthusiast Tyler Lyson found a few dinosaur vertebrae on his uncle’s South Dakota ranch in 2000…. Both Manning and Lyson found their first dinosaur bones when they were children, backing up Lyson’s claim that anyone can hunt for and find dinosaurs—a message that will go over big with readers.”

White, N. R. (1998). “The best years of your life”: Remembering childhood in autobiographical texts. Children & Society, 12(1), 48-59.

Children’s Play with Dinosaurs (and Other Monsters)

Elkind, D. (1981). The hurried child: Growing up too fast too soon. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.  Includes a brief discussion of children’s interest in playing with dinosaurs, on page 196.

Jones, G. (2002). Killing monsters: Why children need fantasy, super heros, and make-believe violence. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Katch, J. (2001). Under Deadman’s skin: Discovering the meaning of children’s violent play. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Paley, V. G. (1984). Boys & girls: Superheroes in the doll corner. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Segal, M., & Bardige, B. (1999). Your child at play: Five to eight years: Problem-solving, relationships, and going to school. New York: Newmarket Press.  Have book.

Singer, D. G., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (Eds.). (2006). Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emothion growth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Examples of How Educators Tap into Children’s Interests in Dinosaurs

Bower, S. (1997). Dig those bones. Science Teacher, 64(8), 48-50.

Jones, T. G., & Jones, L. C. (2000). Digging science. Science and Children, 37(8), 28-32.

Seefeldt, C., & Tinney, S. (1985). Dinosaurs: The past is present. Young Children, 40(4), 20-24.  Have paper copy. Includes a discussion of why kids are interested in them.

Sexton, U. (1997). Science learning in the sand. Science and Children, 34(4), 28-31, 40-42.

Sorel, K. (2004). Digging the past. Science and Children, 42(2), 30-34.

Trostle, S. L., & Cohen, S. J. (1989). Big, bigger, biggest: Discovering dinosaurs. Childhood Education, 65(3), 140-145.   Includes a discussion of why kids are interested in them.


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