Preschoolers are fascinated by dinosaurs. These prehistoric creatures are the perfect mixture of science and mythology, which makes the topic irresistible to young minds. These magnificent beasts are rumored to be big, loud, colorful and, in many ways, a complete mystery (plus, they have really cool names). If your little paleontologist has caught the "dino bug," introduce prehistoric activities through literacy, art, sensory and dramatic play. Dinosaurs may be extinct, but learning about them can still be a roarin' good time!
Fossils are stones that hold an impression of an animal or a plant that existed millions of years ago. You may not have many fossils hanging around the house, but you can still make one with your child using simple ingredients. Help your preschooler measure 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of water to combine in a bowl. Mix the ingredients until they become dough-like and form a ball. When you have reached the desired consistency, place the ball on parchment paper to flatten with a rolling pin. You can then set it on the floor and help your child press her bare foot into the dough. Count to 10 together and say "roar!" like a dinosaur. Lift up her foot to see the homemade fossil. Let your creation dry overnight and paint it the next day.
2. Dinosaur Stories
Nothing nurtures a child's curiosity more than reading a book. Introducing dinosaurs through silly stories will make them more interesting, as well as less scary. Many children's authors tackle the subject of dinosaurs by using colorful characters and comedic story lines. "Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp" by Carol Diggory Shields, uses rhythmic words and dance moves that will get your child stomping her feet, just like the dinosaurs in the book. "Dinosaur vs. Bedtime" by Bob Shea is a relatable tale of a young dino who just won't go to sleep (sound familiar, Mom?). Read these books together and ask questions, such as "Do you think Tyrannosaurus rex's had bedtime?" or "Did Stegosauruses have dance parties millions of years ago?"
3. Dino Dig
Paleontology (the study of dinosaurs) is dusty, dirty work, but somebody's got to do it! These experts spend long, hot days digging up clues to tell us more about how dinosaurs looked, lived and became extinct. Explain to your child that you are going to pretend to be at a dinosaur dig. Hide plastic dinosaurs, dog bones, rocks and plants in a large bin full of sand. Give your child tools to dig with (garden shovels, spoons, cups, paint brushes or bare hands) and challenge him to find all of the items. Set out shoe boxes for sorting and, together, sift through your discoveries.
4. Noodle Skeletons
Dinosaur skeletons are often found in museums, but now you can have one hanging on your refrigerator door. Before you begin, gather construction paper, glue and various types of pasta. Look through books with your child to find pictures of dinosaur skeletons. Ask your kiddo to pick a dinosaur that he likes and, using the illustration as a guide, help him arrange the noodles to match. You can also encourage him to make up his own dinosaur and give it a creative name.
- Wild Life Fun 4 Kids: Ten Top Dinosaur Activities for Kids
- Scholastic: Ask a Dinosaur Expert
- The GIANT Encyclopedia of Lesson Plans for Children 3 to 6; Kathy Charner
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images