Lesson Tutor: Dozens of dinosaur theme learning activities for any junior age

Dynamite Dinosaur Days
by Linda Vich

Has it started? Have you heard it yet? Have the words, “Mom, I’m BORED!” started bouncing off the walls in your house like some annoying blue-bottle fly? If so, then keep reading; if not, keep reading anyway – the words are on their way!

As creative as kids are, at some point during the summer months, their imaginations tend to run out of gas. A refill from Mom will get them started again and out of your hair.

One way to refill their creative gas tank is to use a theme. Dinosaurs is one high-octane theme, bound to be a hit with most kids. With a little advance preparation, you will be able to keep your kids busy for at least a week. Here are a few activity suggestions to get you started, your kids are bound to come up with more of their own.

Supply List

  • poster paints
  • assorted Paint brushes
  • green spray paint
  • newspaper
  • flour
  • books on dinosaurs
  • tape
  • mural paper
  • empty ice cream pail
  • old socks
  • an assortment of buttons, colored felt, other odds and ends
  • needles and thread
  • scissors
  • jello and/or sugar cookie dough or mix
  • sand box
  • one set of chicken bones, well-boiled with no meat left on them; dried
  • clipboards
  • pens/pencils
  • paper
  • string
  • cookie sheets
  • Safari-style pith helmets, available from Dollar stores
  • large paper grocery bags
  • large cardboard appliance box
  • paint brushes
  • pieces of burlap or cut up paper bags
  • stick with five pieces of blue streamer tied to it
  • stick with five pieces of red streamer tied to it

Library Visit

To get the kids fired up for Dinosaur Days, first take them to the library to get a number of reference books on dinosaurs. They will be able to refer to these throughout the week.

Dinosaur Habitat

To create a dinosaur habitat in your house or even outdoors if it is dry, the kids can start by making newspaper trees.

Lay three sheets of newspaper on top of each other and then roll them up tightly, using the short side. Tape in the middle. With a pair of scissors, carefully cut one end of the roll into strips, about 6 inches up. Then, carefully twist and pull this end up to make the tree longer. The strips will gradually curl down to form the foliage for the tree.

Kids can make several of these trees. Mom can help out by spray painting the trees green. While the trees are drying, kids can paint a mural for background decoration.

Paper Mache

Have the kids tear newspaper into strips about ½ to 1″ wide. Put some flour into the empty ice cream pail and add warm water gradually, mixing with hands until the consistency of gravy.

Kids can use small balloons as a base for making dinosaur eggs. Set the eggs outside on waxed paper to dry. If it is sunny, they may be dry in a couple of hours. Then they may be painted with the poster paints.

Kids can also make dinosaur models. They may refer to the reference books for ideas. They can establish a base for the body by taking a sheet of newspaper and crumpling it and molding it into a body shape. Strips can then be applied to it.

Dinosaur Puppets

Kids can make puppets from socks. Provided with buttons, pieces of felt, and other odds and ends, they will come up with their own ways to make the puppets look real. They may sew felt pieces down the back of the sock for the bony plates on the back of a Stegosaurus or for teeth, white buttons may be sewn into the mouth.

Paper Bag Dinosaur Masks

Have the kids create dinosaur heads by decorating the paper bags creatively to reflect the dinosaur of their choice. They can draw on or cut out sharp teeth, bony plates, etc.

Dinosaur Cookies or Jigglers

Kids can make sugar cookies or jello jigglers using dinosaur cookie cutters or may even be able to freehand cut them, using butter knives.

Dinosaur Drama

In this drama, each kid has a role to play – the wind (red streamers on a stick), water (blue streamers on a stick), dirt (pieces of burlap or paper bags), dinosaur (wears the dinosaur masks made from paper bags), or paleontologist (uses a paint brush).

To prepare for this re-enactment, the kids must first make their time machine. Using a large cardboard box from an appliance, a doorway on either side must be cut out. Then the kids can paint the box, add stickers, etc. to decorate it.

The drama goes as follows:

All the kids except for the one playing the dinosaur crawl through the time machine that takes them back to the Mesozoic Era. While crawling through the time machine, it is important for the kids to make beeping noises so that the time machine works.

The dinosaur runs around and when they see it, the water person first waves over it until the dinosaur dies and is covered by the flood. Then the wind helps the dirt cover the dinosaur up. The dinosaur is left behind as the kids go back through the time machine to the year 2000.

This time they explore to find a dinosaur bone. Again, the water and wind do their work, washing over the dinosaur, removing a bit of the dirt until the dinosaur is partly exposed. Then the paleontologists use brushes to brush away the rest of the dirt to find the dinosaur!

Dinosaur Game

Have the kids make four posters of different dinosaurs, labeled with their names. Post the four posters on four walls or in four separate locations. One person stands in the middle and covers his/her eyes while counting to ten. The other kids walk around in a circle.

At the end of ten, the counter calls, “STOP!” and the kids have to stop at the poster that they are nearest. The person, eyes still closed, calls out the name of a dinosaur and whoever is at that one gets to come to the center to count as well. This continues until only one person is left.

Dinosaur Dig

Kids really like this activity but it takes a little advance preparation on your part.

With string and tape, divide the sand box into 4 quadrants. Number each quadrant with a little sign. In each quadrant, bury some of the chicken bones. (Count the bones before burying so that you are sure the kids find all of them!)

Equip the kids with the pith helmets, clipboards and paper and small spoons for digging. To act as a paleontologist, kids must carefully dig in a specific quadrant, recording the number on their sheet. When they find a bone, they must carefully sketch the bone and place it on their cookie sheet.

After all the bones have been found, kids may arrange their bones into a display on the cookie sheets and set up a Dinosaur Museum. They may make little name tags for their bones, etc.

Culminating Activity

This activity will not need a lot of preparation! Take the kids to see the latest dinosaur movie or rent some of the Land Before Time videos.

So, if your children’s creative juice is running on empty, jump to the pump and refill their creative gas tanks by using a theme approach!

Additional Theme Ideas

    • Insects
    • Animals
    • Planets
    • The Future
    • Knights and Castles