Tag Archives: dinosaurs

Repost: Preschool Goes Prehistoric with Dinosaurs!

I’ve got dinosaurs on the brain again, so I thought I’d repost this dinosaur unit from July of 2009.  What are some of your favorite dinosaur activities?

There’s just something about preschoolers and dinosaurs.  Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of tiny children that have been on this earth just a few years and the enormous specimen that left millions of years ago.  In addition to being a fascinating topic of study, a look at dinosaurs serves as a vehicle for learning a variety of skills and concepts.

First and foremost, the study of dinosaurs fosters curiosity and a thirst for learning.  Children can’t help but leap into a pattern of scientific inquiry when they look at these monstrous creatures!  You can also easily explore several preschool life science themes (needs of living things, meat eaters vs plant eaters, theories of extinction) as well as earth science themes (volcanoes, climate changes, etc.).  You just can’t study dinosaurs without incorporating a myriad of science and sensory activities!

Dinosaur study is also a great time to incorporate the math concepts of measurement and scale.   Children will certainly be engaged as they try to understand just how big (and how small) some of these beasts were!

Vocabulary explodes as the children need new words for “big” to describe these guys!  Children begin to use words like “huge”, “enormous”, and “gigantic”.  They may also need words like “extinct”, “paleontologist”, “ferocious”, and “fossilized”.  Additionally, you will be amazed with the capacity some children have for learning and remembering dinosaur names.  This is not a frivolous skill as these names often have Latin roots and, in addition to the initial value, will transfer over to learning and understanding other Latin-based words.

Exploring the world of dinosaurs also opens up the creative minds of our little ones.  Because no one was here to see them, there are only ideas – no right answers- to questions about how these creatures looked and sounded.  Invite your children to make their own conclusions as you study the clues together!

Here are some of the activities you may want to consider in your preschool dinosaur unit (links will follow as detailed activities are added):

Dinosaur Mural (Creative, Social)

Five Silly Dinosaurs  (Music, Math, Language)

Crayon Melting, Dino Style (Creative, Science)

Dinosaur Erosion Table (Sensory, Science)

Fossil Imprints (Science)

Frozen in Time (Sensory, Science)

Preschool Paleontologists  (Science)

Rhyme-A-Saurus(Language, Pre-Reading)

Dinosaur, Dinosaur, What Time is it? (Social, Large Motor)

A Visit to the Museum (Science, Social, Language & Literacy)

Dino Scales (Fine Motor, Creative, Science)

The Classic Volcano (Science)

Hot Lava Hop (Large Motor)

We are the Dinosaurs (Music and Movement, Language)

How Big is a Dino?  (Math)

Dinos Invade the Block Area (Math, Science, Language)

Best Dino Books  (Language)

What activities would you add to the list?

 Top photo by Sarah Dawn Nichols.
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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized, Unit Themes

Problem Solving Your Play Time


I thought Stacy brought up a good question in regards to the Dinosaurs Invade the Block Area  activity.  I thought I’d share it with you and get some of your great ideas as well.

I have issues with putting dinosaurs out in my classroom. Everytime I do it deteriorates into the children using the dinosaurs to bang or hit on each other. Do you have this problem and if so how do you handle it?

  • In general, if a child is using anything to hurt someone or make others feel unsafe, I would state very clearly that what they are doing is hurting others, and that I can’t let that happen at school. (I often point out that that means I won’t let people hurt them either.) Then I tell them they need to play something else for a while and maybe try again later, when they’re ready to use the toys properly. Then lovingly walk them to another area to play. (Of course, if the behavior is more violent, sometimes I need to remove them from others for a short time.)

    More specific to your question, if you’re finding that every time you put the dinosaurs out, the overall play deteriorates, you may need to be more involved in directing or redirecting the children’s play. You may suggest other plot lines for example, introducing a unifying crisis like a storm where the dinosaurs have to work together to build shelter (specific to the block area). The children may be having a hard time coming up with any story line for dinosaurs besides fighting. Reading stories about dinosaurs (like Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp) will introduce new ideas.

    You may also want to take a few minutes to discuss the issue during your large group time or morning meeting. Be very specific about the kind of play that you’re not happy with and why it isn’t appropriate for school. Ask the children to introduce suggestions for appropriate ways to use the dinosaurs and demonstrate with them. Let them know that you can only use those toys in your classroom if you know they can use them properly and keep each other safe. Don’t be threatening, just be very clear and specific.

    I hope that helps!

  • So now I pose the same question to you!  What do you suggest for redirecting this type of behavior?


Filed under Article, Ask Me, Blocks, social skills

Dinosaurs Invade the Block Area


So this one’s pretty obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.  (Like the time the store clerk had to remind me to actually take my bags with me after paying.)  You may be thinking, “I just put dinosaurs in the sensory table.  Isn’t this pretty much the same thing?”  Well, yes and no.  You can certainly use the same set of dinosaurs, but you’re going to get a different type of play.  In the sensory table, you obviously get sensory play, along with language and dramatic play, but the theme of that dramatic play is likely about flooding or burying.  In the block area, the play is constructive and spatial.  The language and dramatic play elements are still there, but likely in the sense of the dinosaurs seeking refuge in a home or cave, or being trapped or caged.  It may even take on a familial script, or something we couldn’t even imagine yet.  The children not only play with the dinosaurs in a different way in the two areas, but they will play with the blocks in a different way than they do without the dinosaurs.  So don’t worry about it being redundant.  Get those dinosaurs out in your block area too.  The children will love it, and you’ll be surprised at how their play changes.


For more dinosaur activities, click here!


Filed under Blocks, dramatic play, Learning through Play and Experience

The Best Books for Dinosaur Lovers!

I usually start out my lit list with some classic suggestions for incorporating nursery rhymes, fables, fairy tales, and the like, but I can’t think of any old standards involving dinosaurs.  If I’m overlooking something, please let me know.  I can’t think of a single one! 

Here are some great books I like to use in a dinosaur unit, or to share with a dinosaur aficionado and watch his eyes brighten with delight!  It is in no way an exhaustive list, so please comment with your favorites as well!  As always, each picture in this list is linked to Amazon if you’re interested in purchasing information, or just more views of the books.

Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please!?

Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please? By Lois G. Grambling

Such a fun, imaginative story about a child who finds a dinosaur egg and decides to hatch it, dreaming of all the fun the two could have together!

Dino Pets

Dino-Pets By Lynn Plourde 

This book does a great job of making it a fun story, while seamlessly giving lots of information about dinosaurs along the way.  I have used it with the Lumpy Bumpy Dinosaur Scales activity.


Dinosaurumpus! By Tony Mitton

This book, as is expected for Tony Mitton’s books, has fantastic elements of rhythm and rhyme, which not only makes it fun to read, but promotes prereading skills.  Follow it up with a percussion band syllable activity to reinforce those skills as well as the musical theme of the book.

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp By Carol Diggory Shields

Another great story with great rhythm and rhyme.  You could use the same syllable activity I mentioned above, or make dinosaur tracks  like the ones you see on the inside covers of this book!

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?By Jane Yolen

This book has reached classic status.  If you haven’t read this to a child yet, apologize to all of them immediately!  Just a great read!  It is also a fantastic opener for discussing social skills and appropriate behavior as well.

Trouble at the Dinosaur Cafe

Trouble at the Dinosaur Café By Brian Moses

This one is a favorite for one of my own little guys.  The T Rex bullies some of the plant eaters until they work together to teach him a lesson.  Great elements of rhyme and rhythm as well. 

Sammy and the Dinosaurs

Sammy and the Dinosaurs By Ian Whybrow

(Apparently this is also published under the title, Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs.)  A tender read about a boy’s favorite toys, which seem to come to life for him, and what happens when they get lost.

First Dinosaur Encyclopedia

Of course, you’ll need lots of non-fiction in your library too.  There are plenty of great ones out there, but you can never really go wrong with a DK publishing book like this one, the First Dinosaur Encyclopedia.

Now chime in, don’t be shy.  What’s your favorite dinosaur book?  There are tons out there!  Let us in on which ones are missing from this list!

For more dinosaur activities, click here!

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Filed under Article, book activity, Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience

How Big is a Dino? Getting Dinosaurs Down to Size

 ruler gerard79

The enormity of dinosaurs is bewitching for preschoolers.  They have a hard time wrapping their minds around just how big these beasts were, and yet it is that fact that drives their fascination!  When I talk to children about the sizes of dinosaurs, here are a couple of ways I demonstrate it.

Scaling Down.  Give the children a scale model.  I like to use a Lego man.  I believe they’re about 3 inches tall.  So if you assume the average male is 6 feet tall (I said average, so don’t feel left out), that gives you a scale of 1 inch=2 feet.  So figure out a few dinosaur sizes using this scale.  I tell the children that dinosaurs were so huge, I had to shrink them down to bring them to large group.  I show them the Lego man and tell them to imagine it’s a big, grown up dad, shrunk down, just like the dinosaurs I want to show them.  Then I use a tape measure to show how tall or long some of the dinosaurs would be in comparison.  We’ll talk about a dinosaur and look at pictures in a book.  Then I’ll remind them that the Lego man is a grown up.  “So, if we shrunk the dino down to stand by this grown up, how big do you think he’d be?”  Then I stretch out my tape, and have the children call out where they think I’ll stop, until I reach the accurate length.  If you’re a real over-achiever, you could actually make dinosaur pictures or cut outs to scale, though I’ve been impressed with how well the children can imagine the dinosaur!

Our Class Pet.  Another thing I’ll do when talking about dinosaur size is to research and find a dinosaur that would fit in our room, lengthwise (I’ve used the stegosaurus).  I’ll talk to the children about that dinosaur, maybe even play it up as though I’m thinking about getting one at the pet store, and ask if they think it would fit in here with us.  Then we’ll talk about how long the dinosaur is in feet, and I’ll suggest, “Let’s measure our room to make sure it would fit.”  With a tape measure, I’ll have a child or two hold one end and tell them all that that is where the head would go.  Then I’ll walk out to measure to the tail.  Of course, I always play it up as I keep going, and going, and going, and “oh no, are we going to run out of room?”

In addition to answering the math question about whether or not it would fit, engage in some creative thinking and talk about what the dinosaur would do in your class.  Would it be a jungle gym?  Could it read stories?  Encourage some scientific discussion as well and talk about what it would eat, how much it would eat, and where you could find that much food!  Of course the children know that dinosaurs are “extinct” (a word they will quickly pick up and use with flair), and that we’re just pretending, but their imaginations will run wild as they get a visual reference for the size of these beasts!

I once took a group of children out to a second floor landing, and told them that our pet T-Rex would stand on the first floor, and her head would come up to our toes!  The children stood for quite some time, talking about the T-Rex they could “see” and describing it.  One gal even pretended to paint the dinosaur’s toenails while she waited for her mom to pick her up later on the bottom floor!

These activities will help children begin to understand the size of dinosaurs in a more concrete way.  They’ll begin to see that dinosaurs aren’t just all “big”, but some were much bigger than others, and some were actually quite small.  They will begin to make comparisons and learn to use a measuring tool, both great math skills.  These activities also feed creativity as the children imagine and describe these prehistoric wonders!

For more dinosaur ideas, click here.

Photo provided by gerard79.

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, science activity

Lumpy Bumpy Dinosaur Scales


dino scalesAs you’re talking to your preschoolers about dinosaurs, it’s great to talk about what they might have looked like.  No one was around to see them, so no one knows for sure, but paleontologists have used some clues to help them make some really good guesses.  Some “mummified” dinosaur remains show dinosaurs with scales.  That would make sense since they are considered reptiles!  (The name brontosaurus actually means “thunder lizard”, just a tid-bit kids love to hear.) Here’s a great activity to explore the scaly nature of dinosaur skin while also building creativity and motor skills.

Start this one out with a discussion about dinosaur’s skin.  I have used the book  Dino Pets, by Lynn Plourde  to introduce this idea, since it does a great job of illustrating and comparing the many characteristics of dinosaurs.  I’ve also used samples of leather (or imitation leather, it may be easier to come by) for the children to feel the bumpy, scaly texture.  Then, using a dinosaur outline as your base, (I found these dinosaur outlines online), have the children rip colored paper into small pieces and glue them on the dinosaur to represent the dinosaur scales.  (It may be easiest just to cover the dinosaur with your glue stick before tearing.)    Don’t be tempted to cut the paper for them!  The tearing action utilizes the pincer grasp and builds fine motor strength and control.  These are all skills children need to develop in order to have the physical ability to write.  Of course, since we have no way to be sure what colors the dinosaurs were, the children can use their imaginations and implement any colors they like.  Challenge their creativity and talk to them about their ideas as they make their own colorful dinosaurs.  Where would such a colorful dinosaur live?  What is it called?  What does it eat? 

Now inevitably, some children will be so enamoured with this ripping and gluing action that they will cover their papers with these colorful scales and completely obscure the dinosaur outline.  That’s OK!  Remember the objective of this activity is not to create a cute dinosaur.  The objective is to learn about the science concept of scales as a dinosaur characteristic, and to build creativity and fine motor strength.  Those things can be done whether you have an obvious dinosaur outline or not.  Enjoy creating these colorful, scaly creatures together!

Fore more dinosaur activities, click here!


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, fine motor skills, science activity

We are the Dinosaurs

pictures_band01I love Laurie Berkner’smusic!  She is one of those artists who really knows music and really knows kids.  Her music is fun and I don’t find it patronizing or grating like I do with some other children’s music.  If you haven’t found her treasure trove of music yet, you should stop everything and go to iTunes now.  Or at least after you finish reading this post!

One of my many favorite Laurie Berkner songs is, “We are the Dinosaurs”.  It’s a great song and perfect for the kiddos to dance to.  They really just naturally dance to act out the story in the song.  It starts at a heavy dinosaur march, and then switches to a lighter, quicker tune as you stop to eat and then again to rest.  In addition to being a fun song to sing and to dance to, it is great for exposing the children to a musical change in mood, as the music alternates between staccato and legato.  This is a great activity for fostering creativity as well as developing music and movement skills.  So now you can dance on over to iTunes and download this song.  I guarantee your children will get more than one dollar’s worth of use out of it!

For more dinosaur activities, click here.

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity