James Callahan illustration
Three-year-old Davis Johnston would celebrate Halloween every day, if he could.
"He's knee-deep in Halloween," says his mom, Michelle Johnston, a parent educator and trained school counselor at Commonwealth Parenting. "It's funny. My older kids find humor in it."
The mother of four noticed her son's obsession with the holiday after taking her children to the pumpkin patch. The year before, Davis had dressed as Thomas the Tank Engine for Halloween. "He likes to wear costumes," Johnston says. "When we went to the pumpkin patch, the scariness of the holiday stuck with him."
His mom had hoped that Christmas would take over — "but no, it was all too joyful for him," Johnston notes. "I thought he might be attracted to the elves, [but] he was the only one at Christmas talking about Halloween."
Johnston sees her son's behavior as normal. "I think it takes a real imaginative kid to take it to this level," she says, noting that parents shouldn't pay too much attention to passing phases. "The attention feeds it. If I talked about ghosts with him every day and made a big deal about it, I'm afraid it would go on longer."
At Michelle Kennon's house, it's not Halloween that enthralls her 11-year-old son, Woody, it's his Nintendo DS. "It's all about that," she says. "We have to restrict his time on it. He's obsessed with games, [to the point] where he stares into the screen."
Over the years, Woody has shifted his obsession from Thomas the Tank Engine to Power Rangers and Matchbox cars, Game Boy, and now Nintendo. "It's been a gradual progression," his mom says.
A child's obsessions at an early age are usually not cause for concern, according to Liz Pearce, executive director of Commonwealth Parenting. "Very young children develop normal attachments to objects that give them comfort, such as a blanket or stuffed animal. As children grow, their interests grow too, and when a child finds something that brings joy, he or she wants to have it around as much as possible."
If the behavior concerns a parent, Pearce suggests checking in with a pediatrician. "If it begins to interfere with developmental milestones, or appropriate growth, then it becomes a cause for concern."