Play Dough Dinosaur Eggs

Following the great popularity of our dinosaur sensory bin and R and H’s delight in hiding and finding the little dinosaurs in the sand, I decided to expand this activity by hiding dinosaurs in play dough “eggs” for them to discover.

I gathered up our miniature dinosaurs and some homemade play dough I had on hand. I folded the dinosaurs into the play dough and attempted to form them into egg shapes.  Then I set out the eggs and some “excavating tools” on our activity trays and invited the kids to come explore.

R and H (2 years 10 months) had a fabulous time exploring the eggs and opening them to discover the dinosaurs hidden inside.  They went through the first batch of eggs pretty quickly so I spent the next half hour re-forming eggs for them to open again . . . and again . . . and again.  This activity gets five stars from me for being fast, easy, inexpensive, easy to clean up, and kid-approved!

 


Dinosaur Sensory Bin

Since J is enthralled with dinosaurs, I decided to introduce R and H to the wonderful world of dinosaurs as well.   They had never shown any interest in dinosaurs previously but perhaps dinosaurs are universally loved by little boys because they were immediately interested in the topic.  They dove right into the dinosaur sensory bin and started exploring the various textures and figures.

They were especially interested in the kinetic sand and were fascinated watching it break apart and fall into the bin.  I hid some of the small dinosaurs in sand “eggs” and they were occupied for quite some time uncovering the figures.

One thing that stood out to me while the kids played is how differently the various children played with their dinosaurs.   While J (not pictured) played primarily with his T-Rex, pretending it was chasing and eating the “baby” dinosaurs, R held his dinosaurs in his arms and announced “the mama dinosaur is kissing the baby”.  J may have a better grasp on the Jurassic era but my heart melted a little when R’s dinosaurs were snuggling.  🙂

Regardless, the dinosaur sensory bin has been a huge hit with all three kids and a frequently requested activity!  There’s no right or wrong way to make a sensory bin, but here’s what I used for ours:

  • 6 pounds (2 packs) of kinetic sand (from Amazon, Target, or most craft stores)
  • Dinosaur figures we had on hand (the small ones are available at Dollar Tree)
  • Craft sticks and rocks from my stash (I got the sticks at Hobby Lobby one time and the rocks at Dollar Tree but you might have some lying around the yard)
  • Various green blocks for “leaves” and “grass”
  • A blue bowl and blue blocks for our “lake”
  • Small plastic trees and rocks I had left from an under-the-sea play set
  • Volcano made out of a plastic bowl from Dollar Tree and felt strips
      J’s sensory bin was nearly identical, although I added a toilet paper roll for a hollow log and used a bowl of blue vase filler for the water since I was not concerned about him putting them in his mouth.  I still supervise closely , though!  If you make your own dinosaur sensory bin, I’d love to hear what you used!

Salt Dough Dinosaur Fossils

Lately, J is obsessed with dinosaurs.  Mostly with having his toy dinosaurs EAT and CRUSH things, but I figure that’s probably historically accurate, right?  Now that the holidays are over and things have settled down, I decided to encourage J’s interest with some dinosaur-themed activities.  One of the first things we did was create some dinosaur “fossils” from salt dough.

 

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Dinosaur figures

To make the dough, mix 2 cups flour and one cup salt in a large bowl.  SLOWLY add the water, mixing as you go.  If your dough is too dry, add a little more water.  Once it gets to be a dough-like consistency, knead by hand until smooth.

J was super interested in watching ME mix the dough, but his enthusiasm for stirring was short-lived.  Once the consistency seemed good, I rolled out balls of dough, flattened them into discs, and we got busy making imprints.

I demonstrated how to press the dinosaurs into the dough to make imprints.  J watched intently, but was much more interested in having his dinosaurs stomp around on his dough.  At one point, he turned his entire pile of dough into a mountain for the dinosaurs!  But eventually, he made his fossils and pronounced them done.  I used the remaining dough to make a variety of imprints and “bones” (thankfully J is only 3 years old and not an art critic) and set our creations out to dry.

I recommend speeding the drying in the oven but since I wasn’t going to be home to supervise them for the required time, I opted to let them air dry.  (The photo shows our already dried fossils–I put them on wax-paper covered cookie sheets to dry and turned every 6-12 hours).  We made the fossils on Thursday afternoon and by Tuesday they were dry enough to play.

I selected about a dozen fossils and put them in a small tub with some sand, a paintbrush, a spoon (“shovel”), and a small hammer, and J got right to work excavating the bones.  He was very excited and kept saying “Wow!” every time he uncovered another fossil.

We talked a bit about paleontology but J was mostly busy covering and uncovering his fossils and telling me what dinosaur might have made each fossil.  He was entertained for about half an hour before it got to be close to dinnertime and we put the tub away to pull out another time.  I’m interested to see how long our salt dough fossils will hold up to being excavated by a budding paleontologist!


Bubble Wrap Indian Corn

bubble-wrap-painted-indian-cornI love this craft because it adds a twist to our usual painting methods.  Painting on the bubble wrap is a fun sensory experience all by itself with an added bonus of looking like Indian corn when you are done!

 

For this project, you will need:

  • Bubble wrap
  • White or yellow paper
  • Corn Cob template (optional)
  • Washable paint (I used orange, yellow, brown, and white)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Brown paper for the husks
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape

 

Before I invited the kids to paint, I prepared our craft by tracing corn cob shapes onto our paper.  (I always do this first but it can easily be done after the paint has dried if you prefer.)  I cut pieces of bubble wrap slightly larger than the corn cob papers and taped them bubble-side-up to our craft table.  When I first introduced bubble wrap painting, we spent some time exploring the bubble wrap before bringing out the paint.  Since B and G are experienced with bubble wrap crafts, they jumped right into painting this time.

I let them paint freely with an occasional reminder to cover all the bubbles with paint.  Once they were satisfied with their paintings, I helped them lay the corn cob papers (blank side down) onto their bubble wrap and showed them how to press down gently so the paint would transfer.

We let the paint dry during nap time before cutting out our cobs.  B wanted to do most of the cutting himself and I was happy for him to have an opportunity to practice scissor skills.  (G was sleeping so I cut hers out this time).  We cut out some simple leaf shapes from brown construction paper and glued them onto the back of the cobs.


This Indian corn craft provided a fun sensory experience, fine motor skills cutting practice, and made a lovely addition to our Thanksgiving decor.


Fall Sensory Bin

With the arrival of (slightly) cooler fall weather, I wanted the tots to have an opportunity to explore some autumn items.  R and H are 20 months old and still fond of putting things in their mouths, so I chose (relatively) taste-safe items that were large enough for them to explore freely.

 

I used a large plastic tub with a lid from Target and added the following items for our sensory experience:

  • Hay (from a bale I got at JoAnn)
  • Small white and orange pumpkins (Trader Joe’s)
  • Small gourds (Trader Joe’s)
  • Indian corn (Sprouts; also saw at Super Walmart)
  • Cinnamon sticks (had in the pantry; also saw at Hobby Lobby and Walmart)
  • Pinecones (Hobby Lobby)

 

Tots had recently been introduced to pumpkins and were eager to dive into the sensory bin.

 

They smelled, tasted, and felt most of the items.

Then they discovered the hay and pumpkins lost their appeal.  The tots LOVED the hay.  They especially enjoyed putting hay on their heads and dropping/throwing hay out of the bin.

Since we were outside and I try to allow messy play when possible–and because they were just so adorably delighted– I didn’t stop them from exploring the hay however they wanted.  I drew the line at throwing pumpkins, though!

 

After a while, it was time to clean up the sensory bin and go inside for baths and dinner.  Even though this was a moderately messy sensory bin, it didn’t take too long to gather up the sensory items and sweep up most of the hay.  Since I was concerned about the hay getting wet and possibly molding, I didn’t put the swept hay back into our sensory bin.  Instead, I scooped it into one of our outdoor buckets to play with another day!