It all began with one of our weekly trips to the public library. After carefully selecting about ten picture books, the kids and I headed over to the juvenile non-fiction to browse. William loves reading books, and he doesn’t seem to care if the text is informational or story-like, so when we visit the library I help him select books of both types. This particular day in the non-fiction section was when William discovered dinosaurs. Soon I found myself purchasing a set of 24 BPA free plastic dinosaurs on Amazon, and weeks later finding that his interest hasn’t fizzled out, we continue to check out dinosaur books and have begun doing dinosaur related activities at home.
Here is what we have been up to.
Dinosaur Picture and Toy Match—I printed off pictures of dinosaurs and William matched them to the same toy. With each match, I asked William to tell me what was the same about the set. This was a great opportunity for William to use some of the vocabulary specific to dinosaurs.
Identify Dinosaur Attributes—I placed William’s dinosaur toys on the table and asked him to pull out the dinosaurs with specific attributes. For example, all the dinosaurs with plates, or long spikes, or long necks. I then challenged him more by asking for more abstract characteristics, such as which dinosaurs use their tail to protect themselves.
Dinosaur Footprints in Play Dough—What little boy doesn’t like using his dinosaur toys to makes footprints? This was a great time to show William how different dinosaurs make different tracks, and now it is his favorite way to use play dough. I extended this idea by making prints myself, then asking William to find the matching dinosaur.
Dinosaur Fossils—I used a simple salt dough recipe to make dinosaur impressions, baked, cooled, and then lightly painted to make the “fossils” more visible. Once dry, I pointed out specific attributes that could be seen in the fossils, and then asked William to find his dinosaur toy that matched. Here is my salt dough recipe:Salt Dough ¼ cup salt ½ cup flour ¼ cup water 1 tablespoon cooking oil Bake at 275° for 45 minutes, depending on the thickness. Cool completely before handling.
Dinosaur Nests—A simple batch of moon sand makes the perfect vessel to keep dinosaur eggs safe. I filled plastic Easter eggs with party favor sized dinosaurs and made a nest around them in moon sand. We read some library books about dinosaur babies and families, and then I let William explore the nest I’d made for him. After opening all the eggs, William spent time building his own dinosaur nests. Here is the moon sand recipe I used:Moon Sand 8 cups flour 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons cooking oil 1 tsp flavored extract (we used almond extract) Mix well and enjoy. (Some recipes call for baby oil, but I prefer cooking oil because then my baby can play in it, and put it in her mouth, without it harming her).
Dinosaur Dig—It would have been just fine to break up the fossils I’d made previously and bury them for William to find, but I wanted to give him something new to find. So, instead, I roasted some chicken bones at 200° for ten hours (overnight) to dry them out. I then buried them in the moon sand and encouraged William to be a paleontologist and gave him paintbrushes and spoons to dig them out. Use only the largest bones and supervision is a must at all times! You can also purchase a dig and find excavation kit like this one:
Dig & Find Dino Excavation Kit by Lakeshore Learning Materials
Dinosaur Stories—We added some sticks and toy shrubbery to our moon sand sensory bin. William spent some time playing and then I asked him to tell me a dinosaur story as he continued to play. It was so fun to hear his story, which was about a family of Brontosauruses who eat leaves at the tip top of trees, and inevitably after each meal the dad Brontosaurus has to go to work.
I have so enjoyed teaching William about dinosaurs. I hope your kiddies find as much enjoyment in these activities as mine did. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.