The sabertooth tiger, a vicious, predatory mammal, disappeared after the last ice age, more than 10,000 years ago. Its extinction is thought to have been caused by the lack of prey available for it to gain nourishment. The sabertooth lived in North and South America -- it is even California's state fossil.
The foot-long teeth protruding from each side of the sabertooth tiger's snout are the most distinguishing characteristic of this prehistoric animal. Gather different types of knives -- bread knife, steak knife, paring knife and butter knife -- for a parent-led demonstration. Find a fruit with hard skin -- cantaloupe or any other melon. Use the different types of knives to show the kids how the serrated back edge of the saber tooth tiger helped him eat. Begin the parent-led demonstration by using the butter knife to try to cut the melon. Use the other knives to try to cut the melon. The steak knife, which most closely replicates the teeth of the sabertooth, will handily cut the melon.
Make a Model
Make a paper mache model of the teeth to help your child see how impressive the teeth were. Use a long, skinny balloon blown up to one foot long for the base of the model. Curve the balloon back with your hands for several seconds until it holds that shape. Mix together white flour and water to the consistency of pancake batter. Cut out strips of newspaper. Soak the strips in the flour and water mixture. Place the strips on the balloon to cover it. Let this layer dry. Apply another layer of paper strips soaked in the flour and water mixture. Try to sculpt the point of the teeth with the paper. Add at least three layers of newspaper strips to the model. Your child may paint with non-toxic acrylic paints when the model is dry.
The sabertooth tiger is California's state fossil. Research the fossils of other states. Find a United States map to put on the wall. Your child finds the fossils designated as the state fossil of each state. She writes the name of the fossil and draws a picture of it to place on the map. There are 10 states that have not named a state fossil. Provide the addresses of the governors of the states that haven't designated a state fossil. Help her write a letter to the governors of those states asking why there has been no state fossil designation.
Provide a box -- a shoe box works well -- for your child to make a saber tooth habitat model. The saber tooth tiger made its home in the grasslands and forests of North and South America. He can make plants out of household items -- paper, fabric and pipe cleaners. Include the deer and bison that the sabertooth preyed upon. Find a toy of the animal to include in the box or make one to place in the habitat.