If your children are interested in dinosaurs, then they will love this fun educational activity. Let them dig for dinosaur fossils in your own backyard. For this project you will need some small inexpensive plastic dinosaurs that you can find at the Dollar Store. You can find Plaster of Paris at any craft store.
Small plastic dinosaurs
Plaster of Paris
A plastic storage container
Older children will be able to do this entire activity themselves. You will have to help younger children with the Plaster of Paris.
Preparing the Sand
First you need the plastic storage container. It doesn’t have to be a large container, even a shoe box sized container will work. Fill the container with a couple inches of clean sand. This sand is used to create the shape of the dinosaur fossil.
Note: Don’t leave this container of sand laying around or your cat might be tempted to use it as a litter box!
Creating the Molds
Have your children use the plastic dinosaurs to create imprints in the sand. If it doesn’t turn out the first time then just wipe them out and make them again. Make sure the imprints are deep enough to pour the Plaster of Paris into. You should be able to clearly make out the shape of each dinosaur.
If you have large toy dinosaurs, try making dinosaur footprints in the sand.
Preparing the Plaster
Pour a small amount of the Plaster of Paris into the bucket. Add water slowly and mix until the mixture is the consistency of brownie batter. The mixture should be damp but not wet. Help your children carefully spoon the Plaster of Paris into the imprints in the sand. Let the fossils dry for several hours before removing them from the sand.
Removing the Fossils
After the fossils are dry, carefully remove them from the sand. The thicker the fossils, the less fragile they will be. Your kids will love the “fossils” they have made. For extra fun, you could also bury the finished fossils in the sand and have your kids dig for the fossils. Give them popsicle sticks and small paint brushes to unearth and “clean” their fossils.
Note: When rinsing out the bucket, do not pour any Plaster of Paris down the sink. When it dries it can be very harmful to your plumbing. Rinse it out with a garden hose instead.
Alternate Dinosaur Activity
For another fun activity, fill a small plastic storage container with water and freeze some of the small plastic dinosaurs inside. You can also add food coloring to the water, if desired. When the water is completely frozen, gently remove the block of ice from the container. Place the ice on the back patio or in a small wading pool and let your children use little hammers or kitchen table knives to break the ice and “discover” the dinosaurs.
These dinosaur fossils are a really fun family project. Your kids can pretend they are Paleontologists searching for ancient dinosaur fossils. Check out a few library books about dinosaurs, and you can turn this into a great easy science lesson for kids of any age.