It’s time for another dinosaur post! 😀
Today’s activity is a DIY dinosaur dig designed for your little paleontologists.
The great thing about this invitation to play is its adaptability. You can make it as intricate or as simple as you like, and kids are always guaranteed to love it!
This activity can hit on several educational areas for your preschooler/kindergartener:
- Sensory play and exploration
- Fine motor skills
- Science concepts and vocabulary
- Mathematical sorting concepts
- Critical and creative thinking
- Primitive research concepts
Here’s what you’ll need to get this dinosaur dig started!
*Large wooden or sturdy plastic box/tub with a lid
*Enough potting soil to fill the box/tub
*3-10 “fossils” – could be real, plastic, or DIY salt dough
*3-10 “other nature items” – sticks, rocks, acorns, etc.
*2-3 digging “tools” – a small paintbrush, a plastic orange peeler, small shovel, etc.
*Optional*plastic liner and metal staples if you’d like a liner for your box
My brother was kind enough to make this fossil box for my daughter for Christmas this year, and we have spent hours playing with it already! He used a small wooden box and chose to line it with plastic using metal staples. Having a container that closes or shuts is great for portability and safety – no one needs the extra stress of finding the baby or the cat getting into that soil. 😀
If you’d like, line your box or tub with plastic. Then fill it with potting soil. Spend some time collecting and burying the fossils and treasures! As a side note, I used 2 or 3 real fossils – found for a couple of dollars at a museum (a shell, a tooth, and a whole fossilized fish), 4-5 rocks (none of them rare or highly valuable), and several sticks.
If you’d like to extend this particular activity into an entire lesson, you may want to start with some prior knowledge using a book about dinosaur bones or what a paleontologist does. This way, there’s already an understanding of how and why to use certain tools, and why the bones and fossils are under the dirt in the first place. If you’re little one isn’t quite ready for that, or if you’d rather just do the activity on its own, you can start wherever you want to in terms of explaining and utilizing tools like brushes and shovels. If you’re going for more of a student-led activity, you could simply lay out the materials and let them go for it! It’s amazing what they’ll dig up (pun intended) on their own!
When your child is ready to dig, make sure you have the tools handy for them to explore with. I love letting Bundle explore first, and then give her more specific tasks later on once she’s had a chance to use the tools, feel the soil and check out what might be in the box.
Here are some ideas for extending the fossil play!
- Ask your child to use the paintbrush to gently clean the fossils, just like a real paleontologist. Show them how to use the tools, if need be.
- See if your child can find a certain number of items – 5 rocks, 3 fossils, 4 sticks, etc.
- Ask your child to sort the items to shape, kind of item, color, or texture.
- For littles or sensory-driven kiddos, ask them to find (and gently clean) each item using only their hands!
- Make a game out of the fossils by having your child hide each item themselves in the soil. See if they can find each item they hid! If it doesn’t take very long, challenge them by hiding the fossils again yourself, or timing how long it takes them to find all the treasures.
- For older kids or children really interested in vocabulary, find out where each fossil or rock came from – or if using faux fossils, what they represent. Use books, computers, the library, or even an expert from a museum!
- Bring out a notebook and have your child draw each item they find. For older students, have them write the names of each item. Even texture or color words could play a role in the journaling process.
- Use sidewalk chalk to trace around the shape of each item. (If you’re using real fossils, you may want to leave this idea out since they can be fragile.)
- Go to the local library and search for books about fossils. Do any of the fossils in the books look like the fossils in the activity box? See if your child can draw any similarities to the fossils in the books and the ones in your box.
- For a great closing activity, practice some life skills with your child by asking them to re-bury the fossils and nature items, sweep up the loose dirt, and clean their tools. It can build confidence and help little dinosaur lovers feel like real paleontologists when cleaning up like one!
Again, these ideas are all just that – ideas! If you’re an educator or a parent, please use these or any combination of them as you see fit within your own (and your child’s) ideas. Your child’s play and learning style is all their own, which is SUCH a wonderful thing!
Hope these helped spark some imagination and gave you some new ideas for play and learning with dinosaurs!
Tune back in next week for more posts and printables in this Dinosaur Unit Study!