Making Dinosaur Imprint “Fossils” with Play Dough!

 

Here is a fun little activity to help teach kids about how dinosaur imprint fossils were formed!  I did this with my second graders last year after our unit on rocks and fossils, just for fun and to give them a chance to use the academic vocabulary words “fossil” and “imprint.”  And as expected, they LOVED it!  It’s fun and easy, and all you need is some play dough and some toy dinosaurs, which I borrowed for this activity.  This would also make a great science center, too!

Dinosaurs and fossils seem to be endlessly fascinating to kids of all ages, so getting them interested is always easy!  And it just so happened that we had found an imprint fossil of a fish (but broken into two half pieces) at our house that one of my daughters had found years ago while on a hike with my husband.  He actually mounted and framed it for her, and it was still on the wall!  So I brought it in for the children to see.  They were SO EXCITED!

 

The kids really wanted to touch the real fossil, so I took it out of the frame and let them touch it.  I think that they were surprised that it just felt like any other bumpy rock, but with a pattern and the outline of a fish.  Once I saw how interested the children were, I started thinking about how we could extend the activity- and then I thought about letting them try to make their own with play dough!  How much fun would they have with that?

 

Although I didn’t have any toy dinosaurs, I knew that one of my students was REALLY interested in them, knew “everything” about them, and was likely to have a whole bunch at home.  So I asked his parents if they would be willing to lend us some for this activity, and they were more than happy to oblige!  In fact, it turned out that there was one plastic dinosaur for every child in the room- all 18!

 

I decided to do this activity whole group after lunch one day, because I knew that my kids would be super excited about it and it would likely distract anything else that was going on.  We already had one set of playdough from the store, so I just bought another, and had a volunteer divide the dough into 18 equal shares and put them into plastic baggies. Each child had slightly more than a golf ball sized amount of dough.

 

Then at lunch, I divided the 18 plastic dinosaurs into three groups of six, and put them on the tables in my room, along with six bags of play dough.  Once the children came in and were settled, I told them what the activity was and that I expected them to share all of the dinosaurs at the table with all of the children in their group.  They were to make an imprint “fossil” and then pass the dinosaur to the next person to try it.  I explained that some of the dinos would make better imprints than others, just by the way the feet were made on the toy, and that it’s better to let everyone try all of them.

 

No surprise, some of the children had a bit of trouble sharing the “best” dinos anyway.  I could get back on my soapbox about how we need to include more social-emotional and self-regulation activities in Kindergarten and Pre-K these days, but I think we all know that anyway, right?  Oh, my- if we could find a way to TEST those kinds of skills, I think more of the decision makers would care, right?  But I digress!

 

In the end, I think the children definitely learned what I set out for them to learn!  I heard them using the new vocabulary words “fossil” and “imprint.”  And I think that they will remember those words!  Isn’t this a great way to help kids really “own” new academic vocabulary words? I love hands on science lessons like this, (here’s another) and I wish I knew more them that were so easy and fun for the whole class to do at once.

 

For some more dinosaur themed materials, there’s my Hexagon Song from the Colors & Shapes DVD!!

 

We also sell dinosaur and robot pattern block activities!!

 

In our CVC Nonsense Words Coloring Worksheets, we have a stellar “IT” stegosaurus! 🙂

 

Hope you enjoyed this post!! Have a great week!

-Heidi 🙂

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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.

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