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Kid Passions

My sister-in-law's home is inhabited by dragons and dinosaurs. My own house is full of fairies and butterflies. As parents of toddlers and preschoolers, it's easy to feel slightly trapped in a one-dimensional world where everything's required to fit the theme of the moment. But experts say a passion for such stuff is healthy and expected. When everyone's bigger, stronger, or more capable than they are, is it any wonder little kids want to pretend to be magical, speedy, or enormous? Fun ways to indulge your child's loves:

Fun a-go-go!
Make your art roll. If your child can't put down his favorite car to pick up a brush, let him use the vehicle as a brush. Show him how to drive trucks and trains over puddles of wash-able paint on a cookie sheet, then roll off the paint in designs on paper taped to the floor.

Put wheels on anything. Buy wooden wheels at a hardware store for a dollar or two, then make your own vehicles by attaching them to objects with nails, wooden skewers, or golf tees. Turn a flat-bottomed potato into a spud-mobile. Transform a Styrofoam block into a car, or link three to make a train.

Create a transportation system. On the sidewalk, or on large pieces of paper that are taped to the floor, draw a town's transportation system, including construction sites for trucks, a garbage dump, an airport, and a bus terminal. Then let your child get rolling, flying, and digging. You can even put "trash" or dirt in little piles for him to scoop up and deliver.

Watch transporting videos. When you need a break from all that motion in your house, slow down with a marathon of Bob the Builder ($10 and up DVD, $7 and up VHS, HIT Entertainment), which shows the functions of various equipment and gives lessons in teamwork and cooperation. I Dig Dirt ($15 DVD, $13 VHS, Dreams Come True Productions) offers a non-animated, realistic view of big equipment in action.

Barbara Rowley, a mom of two, is a contributing editor to Parenting.

Dino-myte

Go digging. Embed plastic dinosaurs in "stone" and let your amateur paleontologist dig them out:

  • Mix together equal parts of plaster of paris (find it at craft or hardware stores), vermiculite (available at gardening stores), and water in a disposable bowl.
  • Drop in a few dinosaur figures and cover with the mixture.
  • Let harden for an hour and then slip the entire thing out of the mold.
  • Give your child a toy hammer and some plastic or wooden digging tools so he can unearth the dinos.

Play "Scientist Says." There's no Simon in this game. He's replaced by a scientist, who directs kids to take huge steps like a diplodocus; small, hopping steps like a velociraptor; and pretend to fly like a pteranodon. Need more dino names and facts to play? Check out the Jurassic Park Institute's Dinopedia or the Dino Dictionary for pictures and information about hundreds of dinosaurs.

Have a dino movie night. The Land Before Time ($15 DVD, Universal) is fun, not-too-scary inspiration for the budding preschool dino freak, while Disney's Dinosaur ($20 DVD or VHS) will thrill older kids and parents with its incredible special effects and loads of educational moments. The Emmy Award-winning series Walking With Dinosaurs ($30 DVD, $5 VHS, BBC Video) is sure to please school-age siblings with its animatronics and digital effects, as will Dinotopia ($11 DVD or VHS, Hallmark), which offers a blend of science and imagination (in this story, dinosaurs and humans coexist).

Listen to oldies. What dino lover wouldn't dig the "Hokey Pokeysaurus," "Dem Bones," and "I Know an Old Dino"? Find them on Music for Little People's Most Amazing Dinosaur Songs ($10 CD; mflp.com or 800-409-2457).

Fantastic fairies

Build a fairy bower. To make a twinkling hideout, hang flowered sheets over two strings suspended between walls. Then run holiday lights under the sheets (alongside the strings), and your daughter will have a sparkling fairy bower where she can eat fairy food: tiny jelly sandwiches and tea with honey and a drop of pink food coloring.

Make fairy dust.

  • Pull petals off roses and other flowers and lay them out overnight so they air-dry and crumble easily.
  • The next day, have your child paint a cookie sheet with glitter glue (you can find it at craft stores).
  • After it dries (in about an hour), peel it off in one sheet and let your child cut it up into small pieces.
  • Combine the flowers and bits of glitter glue together and store in a tiny glass jar, which your child can also decorate with flower stickers or metallic pens.

Catch a movie. Two gems for kids 5 and up: Fairy Tale: A True Story ($15 DVD or VHS, Paramount) is the classic film (and real-life story) about two girls in England who take photos of fairies and find them-selves at the center of controversy -- do fairies really exist? -- during World War I. For a more modern and hilarious cinematic take on fairies, try Ella Enchanted ($20 DVD, $16 VHS, Disney), a tale of magic gone awry.

Look up fairy lore. You'll find the names and stories of hundreds of fairies in the "Fairy Lore" section of Efairies.com. There's also access to loads of merchandise, from books to shimmery dresses.

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