This week we dug into Dinosaurs. This is an obvious favorite of toddlers and preschoolers. I wanted to talk a bit more about how we see dinosaurs today (skeletons and bones) and where we find them (fossils and dirt). After reading a few books about dinosaurs, we started the class with a ‘Dino Dig’ where the kids dug through a bucket of dirt to find plastic dinosaur bones and home made fossils. The fossils were super easy to make, I just made a quick salt dough and pressed tiny plastic dinosaurs into the dough before cooking them. They will last forever! They used toothbrushes to brush off the dirt and inspect their discoveries. I wasn’t sure how interested in the dig part they would be, but they loved it. They loved trying to guess which skeleton was which animal and we talked about how the bones are put back together very carefully once they find them all. Luckily we had just taken a trip to the Cal Academy of the Sciences and saw them reconstructing a whale skeleton so they remembered what that process looked like. It was a good way to bridge the true reality of dinosaurs today with the children’s reality of dinosaurs (that they are real and lurking behind every tree).
We then turned to every child’s favorite. Baking soda and vinegar volcanos. Each kid had a small volcano that I pre-made with “Mud Dough” and baked at 175 degrees until it was hard (a few hours). I then lined the inside of the volcanos with foil. I let them decorate the volcanos with some moss, more Mud Dough and tiny plastic dinosaurs. I filled each volcano with baking soda and handed each child a squeeze bottle full of vinegar colored with orange food coloring (so that the lava looked like fire). They were able to explode the volcanos to their heart’s content. This is a great craft for little hands and minds because they build their fine motor skills by squeezing the bottle over and over, they create their own dinosaur world, and they get to experience the amazing cause and effect of baking soda and vinegar over and over. Vinegar is about $2 for a HUGE jug so I just keep refilling every time they ask. It’s an affordable way to learn and play.
While I was cleaning up the kids got to play with some dinosaur masks and practice their RAWRS. Which, if you’ve ever been around a toddler/preschooler you know practicing rawrs is a popular activity!
Salt Dough Fossils
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/2 Cup Cold Water
Mix dry ingredients, slowly add in water stirring as you go (don’t add it all at once). You don’t have to use all the water, use enough to make the dough able to form ball. You don’t want the dough to be soggy. Knead it a bit to mix it all together and then roll out into whatever shape you want. I form small circles and then pressed the plastic dinosaurs into the circles to make the imprint. I dipped the dinos in flour first and took them off the salt very slowly so that their shape stayed intact. Then bake for about 4 hours at 175 degrees, or until really hard.