Salt Dough Dinosaur Fossils

By far the biggest hit of my Dinosaur theme Science class are the salt dough fossils.  So easy to make the dough and the kids love playing with it like playdough.  And best of all?  You can bake them, paint them and save them or give them as gifts!  With the holidays right around the corner, you have to try this!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • toy animals, dinosaurs, anything that can leave a fun imprint!

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Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add about 1 cup lukewarm water and knead until you have a nice dough.  If it gets too sticky, add more flour.  That’s it!

Break off the dough and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick.

IMG_2315We used a bunch of dinosaur skeletons and toy dinosaurs to make imprints of their feet and their skeletons.

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When your fossils are done, bake them in the oven at 200°F for about 3 hours.  They should be fairly hard by the time they cool.

IMG_0328You can paint your fossils and spray them with acrylic spray to save them as keepsakes.

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Extension:

A fun way to play with these fossils is to have the kids make them with their favorite toy animal prints and then later try to match the footprints with the animals.  A different twist to a matching game for little superheroes and a fabulous way to build their reasoning skills.

Click on the link to see where I got the idea from and for more details:

http://www.loveplayandlearn.com/2013/02/salt-dough-recipe.html

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Dinosaur Dig

This Dinosaur Dig activity is SOO easy to set up and keeps the youngest superheroes entertained for a long time.  Pair it up with some Dinosaur Eggs and your little Paleontologists will be even happier diggers!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin or Sandbox (I use the shoebox size bins from the dollar store)
  • Sand (I used the play sand from Home Depot)
  • Container to place all the hidden items in as they find them.
  • Toy dinosaurs, skulls, skeletons
  • Dinosaur Eggs (click here to see how to make these EASY eggs with treasures/fossils inside)
  • “Tools”: paintbrushes, toothbrushes, shovels, spoons, magnifying glasses, etc…

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To prepare the box:

Fill the bin about halfway with sand.  Bury toy dinosaurs, toy skulls or dinosaur skeletons into the sand.  I also buried a few dinosaur eggs for the kids to find.  Make sure all the treasures are covered up by the sand.

Give your superheroes some “Tools” and let them dig and discover!  That’s it!  Easy!

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The superheroes enjoyed digging in their boxes for dinosaurs, skulls and skeletons!

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Using the magnifying glass for closer examination and toothbrushes to clean out the dinosaur skulls was a big hit!  The picture below on the left shows a superhero brushing the dinosaur’s teeth:)

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The dinosaur dig is definitely a favorite for the superheroes and the Tiny Tots in my science class.  We will definitely be doing this again next session!

 The Science behind the Activity:

Here is another science activity that invites young children to explore, investigate and be curious, just like real scientists.  They choose which tools to use and how to use them and what methods are best for locating the hidden items, breaking open the dinosaur eggs and cleaning off their finds.  Lots of problem-solving and the kids think that they are just playing in the sand!

Extension:

This activity can be modified for any hidden items.  You could also throw in some gems, large beads, gold-painted rocks and show them how to use a sifter (from their sand toy collection) to look for treasures as well.  Great for a pirate party or to link to a history unit.

Dinosaur Eggs

As part of my dinosaur theme, I like to set up a “Dinosaur Dig”.  One of the treasures my Mini-Paleontologists dig for are fossils.  These easy homemade Dinosaur Eggs are a great way for your superheroes to use their problem solving skills to crack them open and discover what’s inside and how to get it out.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Cornstarch
  • Sand (I used some sand we got from the beach as well as play sand from Home Depot)
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Water
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Old Pot (or one you don’t mind getting scratched up from the sand)
  • Some dinosaurs (or other small animal figures-I got mine from the dollar store)
  • Tools: brushes, toothbrushes, plastic knives (metal butter knives if your kids are old enough), magnifying glassesIMG_2320

To make the dinosaur eggs:

Add 1 cup of sand, 1/2 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 tsp of Cream of Tartar to an old pot.  I say an old pot in case you are worried about it getting scratched from the sand.

Add 1/2 cup of water and mix over medium-low heat.  It will be watery at first but will slowly thicken into a dough.

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Once the dough has formed, place it on a cutting board to cool a bit.

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I used dinosaur skulls and small dinosaurs for my eggs.

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Place a dinosaur or skull into the chunk of dough and shape into an egg.

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Let it dry overnight.  I put ours out in the sun and they were rock hard the next morning.

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Give your kids the tools to break it open.  Or hide them in a sand box.  Or make it part of a dinosaur dig!

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The superheroes used a knife and their hands to crack the eggs open.

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They used brushes and magnifying glasses to examine the dinosaurs and clean them off.

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Science Behind the Activity:

This is an excellent way to develop fine motor skills as well as enhance problem solving skills.  The superheroes tried many different ways to get the eggs open, using their hands and tools.  Once they discovered the skulls, I gave them a chart to try to identify which skull belonged to which dinosaur.

 

 

Ice Age Dino Dig

Over the past week, we’ve been hit by an unusually long stretch of days where the temps have been at or over 100 degrees.  Today was the HOTTEST day of the week, or so the forecasters claim.  It’s been too hot to go outdoors and we’ve all been getting cabin fever so over the past few days, I’ve been preparing an icy dino dig and today the superheroes finally “dug in” (Bad pun, I know.  But science teachers are known for bad puns and corny jokes)

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • shallow bin to collect the melted water
  • Ice block with frozen toys (I have details on how to make this below)
  • Salt (I used colored salt which added extra fun to this)
  • spray bottles with warm water
  • Metal spoons or anything sturdy and safe to dig and break the ice with
  • eye droppers, syringes, spray bottles, cups, test tubes, turkey basters, etc… as “tools”

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To make the ice block:

I used a plastic ziploc container that fit in my freezer and added about 1/2 inch of water in it and froze it.  Then I gathered the boys’ toy dinosaurs, fish, rocks, sea shells and some blue and green foam shapes and added a few to the container and covered it with an inch of water.  I put it in the freezer.  Once that layer froze, I added more “treasures” and repeated until the container was full. It took me about 2 days to prepare this, adding water and toys in layers about twice per day)

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I also learned how easy it is to color table salt and figured colors always make things more fun.  I added about half a cup of table salt to a ziplock bag and added a few drops of food coloring to it.  I squeezed out all the air and sealed the bag.  Then I mixed it together until I got the color I wanted.  It took me less than 5 minutes to make it.

I filled 2 spray bottles with very warm water and then had a container with just tap water.  I added the salt to another container with a spoon.  And then I let the superheroes at it!

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First they added the salt and rubbed it into the ice.  Immediately we heard the ice crackling.  Then the spray bottles came out.  My middle one really loved the spray bottles.

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The syringes and droppers allowed them to get the water precisely where they needed to dig out the dinos.  As the ice melted, the boys got creative and started dumping water on top to see if it melted faster.  Not only were they trying to figure out the best way to dig the dinosaurs (creative problem solving) but they also were working together as a team!

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Slowly, but surely, the ice block started coming apart and the dinosaurs were freed!  It took them about an hour to dig them all out but it sure helped to cool us down and distract us from the miserable heat.

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The superheroes really enjoyed this and we will be doing this again on a hot day.  There are so many variations with this activity.  You could pick any theme you want and add the appropriate toys and colored salt.  And And the best thing was that we had everything at home.  This cost us nothing at all!

 The Science behind the Activity:

When the salt is added to the ice, it lowers the freezing point of the ice so that water can exist as a liquid at a temperature lower than 32 degrees F (0 degrees C).  This helps to melt the ice, much like East Coasters use salt on the roads to melt the snow and ice so that cars don’t skid in the cold, snowy weather.  Using hot water also helped to melt the ice which was a concept that my boys already understand but perhaps younger kids could discover.  What I loved most about it, besides the science, was the creative problem solving that they did while working together to dig out the dinosaurs and rocks.  It was so wonderful for me to listen to their discussions on why they needed to use the droppers and when it was necessary to add more salt.

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment:

http://happyhooligans.ca/melting-ice-with-salt-and-water/

Follow this link to see how I learned about coloring salt:

http://www.craftymoods.com/2012/06/make-festive-color-salt-sugar-in-no.html#.U9x-foBdXUg