Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dinosaur Fossil Dig

I made the "dinosaur fossils" earlier this week and let them air dry. That was a poor decision mainly because it wasn't hot enough to dry it out in a day or two.. it took nearly all week! So we will try this recipe again next week and bake them, that way they will be ready to go the next day. 

I used a simple recipe called "salt dough". The recipe called for 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour and 1/2 - 1 cup water. I used 2 cups of salt, 4 cups of flour, and 2 full cups of water. You want the dough to be dry, but it was just easier to roll out when it was a bit wetter. This didn't make much of a difference, except maybe that's why it took so long to dry! But if you plan on baking it anyways, the extra water shouldn't hurt it. In the future I will roll this out on a sheet of parchment that way it's easier to roll out. Using a big rolling pin in a bin like this was not easy. :)


Then I grabbed a handful of dinosaurs from our Animal Planet's Big Tub of Dinosaurs playset. These dinosaurs are some of Bean's favourite toys. She just loves playing with them and feeding them and taking them on our walks. We take a couple of them with us when we go to the park and she will take them down the slide with her or stomp them around in the little plants that grow near the fence (which are sadly gone now).

It was easy enough to just press these little guys into the dough. I spread them out enough that none of them touched.


Their imprints were amazing and actually very clear! This picture doesn't do Mr. Dilophosaurus any justice!


I tried to make sure to get everything, but the Triceratops body was a bit lost because his frill was just too big. This wasn't a huge issue. When they dug him out, they lined his body up and he fit perfectly.

I added dinosaur tracks afterwards.

Before we began this dinosaur dig we played with the dinosaurs whose fossils we were about to uncover. I brought out the construction paper safari that I made for our Little People animals the other day and it was perfect for these dinosaurs. Bean added the trees and Munchkin put out the rocks. Bean told me they came through the Time Tunnel to visit. The Time Tunnel comes from Dinosaur Train, Bean's favourite show about dinosaurs. 


Munchkin loves these little grey rocks. Why? Because he can stack them!



Bean made sure to feed all the dinosaurs. She wasn't content to just stand him next to the tree to eat. No, he had to fly up so he could get the leaves at the top.


Munchkin typically does his own thing when we play like this. Here he is lining up the dinosaurs and pretending to count them. He points to them individually and goes "hmm" to each one. He does know a few numbers, but not how to say them in order. He prefers the alphabet.


At one point Bean became very sneaky and gathered up the ankylosaurus and apatosaurus and stuffed them into the volcano.. She then shook up the volcano and said, "OH MY GOD!" Suddenly they were flying in the  air and she was screaming, "volcano, watch out!!" It was pretty hysterical.. and I still don't know where she got "oh my god" from, but nowadays she says it whenever she gets really excited about something.


After that she crowned herself the "volcano princess".


That was the perfect time to bring out the dinosaur fossil bin. I told them that the volcano had wiped out all the dinosaurs in this area and their fossils were preserved under the sand for them to find. (Also why I could get away with these guys not being bones... shhh.)


To keep things simple, mainly because this was their first fossil dig, I only brought out two brushes. One was just a regular thick paint brush and the other was this silicone basting brush, which is normally reserved for cooking, but today it was used to uncover dinosaur fossils! Bean immediately began "sweeping" the sand to the corners of the bin.


While Munchkin explored the little brush and swept the sand very enthusiastically, which resulted in a bunch of sand all over us. Luckily he stopped after that, since he doesn't like sand in his hair. :)


It took very little time to start uncovering the fossils since I only put about an inch of play sand on top of them.


Before any fossils were discovered, they loved feeling the surface of them. The sand was grainy and poured right out of their hands and in some places they could even feel the bottom of the bin. But right in the middle was an odd white lump of something. Bean was very perplexed and kept giving me a look like, "What did you put in my sand?" I told her fossils and held up a picture from our dinosaur history book. Immediately her eyes lit up and she started sweeping the sand faster.


But I told her to be gentle because you don't want to ruin them (just in case). So she traded Munchkin for the little brush and took her time uncovering them.


Munchkin had much more fun sweeping with the bigger brush.


Finally.. they were emerging.


She kept saying she found one each time a new fossil was uncovered.


She was so excited when she found the dinosaur tracks. She kept asking me which ones they belonged to, so I helped her match up each set of tracks to the dinosaur it belonged to. After a few minutes she was able to match them on her own.


The first full dinosaur emerged from the sand. Bean practically exploded with happiness. She was so proud of herself. :)



Mama's favourite: velociraptor.


Once Bean realized they were all spaced out she started just sweeping around until she found one and then focused on sweeping the sand out of the way only around it.


Dilophosaurus was finally found and Bean squealed. She loves this guy. He's her favourite predator and she calls him her "little meat-eater" and "mean baby." :)


We matched each of the fossil remains to the dinosaur it belonged to.


Triceratops is sniffing around until he found himself.


Ankylosaurus became very popular after that. He had such a fun fossil that Bean spent about 20 minutes exploring his. She matched him up.


Fitted him into his fossil.


She rolled him around in it, trying to see if she could leave an imprint and was surprised that his fossil didn't change at all.


She kept feeling it to see what it was made of and why it stayed the same. The sand moved around and shifted, but the fossil was hard and intact. It was an exciting experience for her. It wasn't the same as playdough, which imprints easily.


And these are the stars of our Dinosaur Fossil Dig!


At the end, Bean brushed off each of the dinosaurs to make sure they were clean of any stray grains of sand. This little guy has a big open mouth, so she made sure to clean out his belly too.


But after they were cleaned, they were plopped back into the bin to be covered again in sand. This bin turned out to have many fun and playful possibilities.


Bean knows all the names of these dinosaurs, so we spent most of this activity focusing on fossil terms, like fossilization, impressions, matrix, trace fossils and sedimentary rock. While these terms don't mean much to her, I was still able to tell her about them. For example, when we discovered the first set of dinosaur tracks I told her that we had discovered trace fossils, which aren't preserved parts of the dinosaur but are evidence left behind by the dinosaur. When she became interested in the salt dough being different from the rest of the sand, I told her about sedimentary rock, which is layers of sand (or mud or clay or silt) that hardens over millions of years. Since our dino world had a river, we decided it was because they died around a river bed.

We enjoyed so much learning with this dinosaur fossil dig!

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