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!

UPDATE 3/6/19:  It’s been about 6 weeks since we first started using our salt dough fossils and they are still going strong!  J often asks for his “paleontologist sensory bin” and the fossils have been buried, uncovered, brushed, stacked, and dropped and seem to be holding up.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure they would last past the first round of excavating, so I’m delighted they’ve made it this long.  A few have developed minor cracks but I expect to get at least another six weeks out of this activity!

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