Clay Dinosaur Fossils

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As you all know, we have recently set up a little Dinosaur Project Table in the living room. Our house is slowly transforming into a giant classroom…much to my husband’s delight :-).  Since we have set the table up, T has been having lots of fun bashing dinosaurs heads together, sorting them into categories, and making up stories with them.

Not long after we set the table up, we tried this beautifully simple size ordering game from The Imagination Tree, which he loved so much he was asking for it the next day!

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We did it last minute, so we had to use a paintbrush to brush off the soil – but I think a toothbrush would work best. I must also add a warning: do not leave these in your soil overnight – even if it is a tiny bit damp, the salt dough will soak it up and you end up with soft, floppy bones…which aren’t so easy to dig up.  Although, my oven is a bit rubbish..so perhaps they didn’t cook properly.

After the success of this first dinosaur game, I have been thinking about what to try next.  One of T’s favourite things to do with playdough is to push his small animals and dinosaurs in, looking at the marks they make underneath. He has also – for as long as I can remember – loved puzzles.  So I thought it would be nice to take this a bit further and make some real fossils together, which we can match to dinosaurs afterwards (like a puzzle). I finally have a spare moment (as daddy is on holiday helping out) to post the story of our little activity.  So here is how we did it:

Clay Dinosaur Fossils

We used:

Clay
Plastic dinosaurs
Rolling pin
Round pastry cutter

We started by reading our dinosaur information book and talked about what a fossil was. Then we looked at the dinosaurs and I tested T on their names (he loves a quick verbal quiz!).  Then T chose his favourite dinosaurs to press into the clay. He wanted to do the triceratops’ footprints, then the momasaurus, then the dimetrodon.  He then went running upstairs to fetch his tiny plastic Thomas trains, and lined them up neatly on the table.

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These little beauties came with something called a ‘(Thomas) Busy Book’. They are mini plastic Thomas trains, and, for a good 6 months, they went everywhere with him.  Anyway, he decided, in his own unique way, that he wanted to make some Thomas train fossils. So we did!

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While we were making them, it occurred to me that it would be pretty cool to make a fossil that we could “excavate”. So T chose his favourite – a “Euoplacephalus” – and placed it on top of a lump of clay.  Then he pressed more clay down on top.

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A couple of days later, we pretended to be palaeontologists, and hammered and chiselled away until it broke open. Daddy helped out here.  I don’t know who had more fun doing this…chiselling is a great stress-reliever!

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The next day, we decided to paint them. T chose the colours.  Watercolours worked really well for this – the clay absorbed the watery paint quickly so he was easily able to cover the fossil without too much fuss.  It was quite a satisfying experience for him I think, as he wanted to finish them all off in one sitting!   It was also an opportunity to talk about colours, as he wanted to match the colours to the trains – red for James, blue for Thomas, etc.

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Here are our dinosaur fossils on our Project Table.

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Once they were dry, we gathered all the fossils and dinosaurs we had used and we played a matching game!

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T was really into the fossils and was talking about them all of that day and the next.  When he came down for breakfast he ran to get them and started matching them again.

So that evening, I made some “surprise fossils” for him, with some objects from around the house.  The next day, I hid them in some soil with the objects that matched.

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He enjoyed digging and coming across the different fossils and objects.

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Once he had found them all, he brushed the soil off with a paintbrush:

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Then he arranged them in a line and matched the objects to their prints:

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We enjoyed doing this activity with clay, but there are so many other fun materials you could choose. A good alternative (which I just couldn’t find in the shops) is white air-drying clay. And there are plenty of brilliant, resourceful mum bloggers who have done it with different types of salt-dough too. There is a simple online fossil dough recipe here.  There are loads of other “fossil dough” ideas on pinterest that are worth having a look at.

Thank you for stopping by to read this. I hope you and your little one are having fun today!

Marianne x

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Dinosaur Investigation Table

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Invite your child to explore the world of dinosaurs (or any other of their interests) by setting up this simple Investigation Table.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but my T has a serious obsession with Thomas The Tank Engine. I cannot stress enough how passionate he is about Thomas. We now own ALL the Thomas dvds, books and puzzles that are on the market, as well as a ridiculous number of trains and track pieces. We have had oodles of fun playing trains. I really could probably write an entire blog JUST on train play, but this amazing lady has already done that. I stumbled across her blog a while back and it is truly mind-blowing how many brilliant ideas she has come up with to play with trains and track.  It’s well worth a look if your little one is into trains – she has some fantastic ideas for getting all sorts of learning into your train play.

Anyway, I have reached the point where I feel we (well, mostly I) need to expand our horizons a bit with just *some* non-train play (is that too much to ask?). Of course there is no point in trying to push a child into anything – they will follow their own interests. Luckily, thanks to a new Thomas film that involves fossils, T has now begun to show an interest in dinosaurs. Hooray! This is a very exciting moment for me. I love dinosaur stuff!

When I taught in a Nursery, we always had what we called the Project Table. Here we displayed objects, books, words and pictures related to our half-termly Theme, and the children loved exploring the stuff on the table. I have been thinking about setting one of these up for a while, to encourage him to explore his interests even further. With only one table, which we use for pretty much everything – painting, messy play, drawing, sticking, play-dough, reading, doing puzzles – I need to be able to set it out and tidy it away easily. I also want it to change a bit so there are different activities and play invitations on different days.

Here is how I set it up: I covered the table with a length of green felt and put up a dinosaur poster I picked up for £1 at the library.  Then I added an upturned basket, some toy dinosaurs, shiny blue card for a lake and some brown felt for a muddy swamp.  I used some magnetic letters to write the word dinosaur, as a simple letter matching activity, and added some dinosaur information books.  When I need to clear the table away, all I do is scoop the objects into the basket and fold up the felt.  Here is how it looks right now:

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I just thought I would share this as you could easily set up your own investigation table on any subject really, with a basket, some felt, a poster and some books.  My big plan is to have a sort of dinosaur “play box” to keep all this stuff in, and to create different play boxes for different themes.  As T gets older, I know that he will have more input into how the table is set up, and what goes into it. Right now, I cannot predict how this table will evolve, as it all depends on where his interests and ideas take us…but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

Now that we have it all set up…watch this space for more dinosaur stuff..! And thank you for stopping by, as always :-).

Marianne x

21 Autumn Activities For Under 5s

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Who else just LOVES Autumn?  It’s always been my favourite season.  Not only does it bring with it the excitement and promise of a new school year (freshly sharpened pencils, newly laminated name tags above pegs and all those happy little faces ready to learn!); but it is also a lovely time to be outside – the air is cool and fresh, the trees and ground are colourful, and there are lots of treasures to be found for playing, counting, sorting, discussing, exploring and creating with.

Autumn Treats For You!

With New Person Day approaching, I have been getting together all my favourite Autumn activities on my Pinterest boards (scroll to the bottom of this post for the links), so that I have an instant treasure trove of activities to dip into once the baby is born.

I have also made this list to share with you. It includes my own ideas and some of other mum-bloggers (just click on the links to their sites to see full explanations). I’ve divided it into rough categories by age, so that you can just scroll down to the bits that apply to you. I hope you find it useful.  If you have any other brilliant ideas that you have tried at home I would love to hear of them and am sure other readers would too – just share in a comment b.

At 37 weeks pregnant, with backache, headaches and all sorts of other aches (!), I think this will have to be my last pre-baby post…I am not good at forcing myself to relax…but my body is telling me I need to now!  So I will have to tear myself away from the laptop keyboard and try and have some “Me Time”.  Wish me luck for the big day, and I will look forward to sharing some baby photos with you!!  For now, here is my list of activities:

19 Autumn Activities For Under 5s

BABIES (6-12M)

1 Make this simple Autumn Sensory Bin from Fantastic Fun and Learning

2 Collect acorns and pop them in a plastic bottle for a simple acorn rattle.  You might want to paint them with a mixture of paints and pva glue for a more colourful rattle.

3 Or  – add conkers, leaves and other autumnal treasures to make a sensory discovery bottle, like these Rainbow Sensory Play Bottles from My Little 3 And Me.  She doesn’t show an autumn bottle on her site, so you would need to use your imagination to create your own.  I just wanted you to see the bottles she makes, as they are really simple and attractive. I especially like the coloured ribbons she attaches to the lid – lovely!

4 Take photos of autumn leaves, trees, squirrels, pine cones and other seasonal things and create a simple Autumn Photo Book to share with your baby.  I would dearly love to do this, but with no time and no energy, I shall force myself to wait until next Autumn…ho-hum.  Let me know if you do one – would love to see it :-).

5 Does your baby enjoy tunnels?  Check out this fun and really simple Autumn Leaves Baby Game from Kids Activities Blog

TODDLERS (12-36M)

6 Collect a variety of autumn treasures on an autumn walk.  Make some home-made shakers (see above link) with your child, and encourage them to make their own creative choices about what to fill them with and how to decorate them.

7 Learn and Sing Some Autumn Songs, like these from Preschool Express, and accompany them with your shakers!

8 Get messy and creative, Painting With Sticks And Leaves (from Feels Like Home Blog)
9 Make some Autumnal Scented Play Dough

10 Try out some pine cone printing/rolling on a tray.  I couldn’t find an example of this online, but just grab some autumnal coloured paints (in separate plastic tubs from your recycling), some paper (cut to size), a baking tray and some pine cones.  Put the paper in the tray, put the pine cones into the paint trays, and let your little one explore!

11 Make some handprints with your toddler using autumnal-coloured paints, cut them out and attach them to a brown paper trunk for an arty autumn tree.  Or you could hole-punch them, thread string through and make an Autumn garland.

12 Make your own pictures together with this Apple Stamping Art Activity from Creative Family Fun.  Happy Hooligans also do this here.  You could use this to make homemade wrapping paper!

13 Go out for a woodland walk and collect treasures for an Autumn treasure basket. Take photos of the items in your collection and save on your phone for a mini slideshow matching game. Look at the picture, find the object (in the basket) to match!  We do this with lots of things already and T loves it!

PRE-SCHOOLERS (3-5 YRS)

14 Go on a Woodland Walk.  Collect leaves and other things. Create an Autumnal Nature Table at home to encourage scientific exploration, sorting/categorising and reading skills. This one here on the Imagination Tree is so easy to create but really inviting.

15 Go on a stick hunt as a family, with some googly eye stickers and make this seriously groovy Stick Family Tree! Wouldn’t this be fun to make? And what a talking point it would make displayed in the downstairs loo!  Thank you to Viki for sharing this on facebook :-).

16 Create a simple Sensory Invitation To Play, using a muffin tin and autumnal spices with this Sprinkles Painting Activity from Crayon Box Chronicles

17 Get into some good, old-fashioned leaf-printing (using a rolling pin!) – simple, easy to follow tutorial at Naturally Educational here:

18 Bring out the creativity in your child, with this Autumn Tree Art using egg cartons from Teach Preschool.  Genius idea, with lots of potential for different creative outcomes.

19 Make some beautiful seasonal coasters, soap trays or bowls like these from Red Ted Art by printing leaves in clay.

20 Set up an Autumn-Themed Train Track with this stunning Squirrel Train Small World Activity from Play Trains.  This does require a bit more prep than the others, and you would need to buy the squirrels and felt…but it is SO beautiful and inspiring I just had to share it.  It takes time and effort to create scenes like this that inspire creativity…but it’s so worth it, to see just how much learning goes on as a result of that thought and preparation :-). 

21 Read some Autumn Books together, to encourage discussion.  I found this brilliant list of books about Autumn Leaves on Clever Classroom Blog, which saved me the trouble of making one myself!  We will definitely be investing in a few of these over the years.

Every Child Is Unique

As I always say, young children cannot be fitted neatly into categories by age really, so the age categories above are merely a guide.  I know for a fact that my T would really dig the sensory bottles on the “baby” list, and the Autumn books and train track play on the “3-5” list.  I hope you and your little ones find some stuff here that you enjoy together.  If you do, feel free to share here or on my Facebook page, and do hit the like and share button at the bottom of this post to share with any parent friends you think may find it useful.

DON’T FORGET: check out the other goodies on my two Pinterest Boards: Arty Autumn Activities and Autumn Cooking Ideas For Kids.  I’ll keep adding to these so you are very welcome to follow the boards by clicking on the Follow (Pinterest) link on my homepage.

Do you know how much I LOVE YOUR COMMENTS? (even the teeny tiny ones)

Don’t be shy and consider leaving one here – you will make my day!

Happy Autumn Everyone!

Marianne x

15 Fun Ways To Play on a Rainy Day!

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Boy is it WET outside today. But every rainy day is an opportunity for fun, play and learning in my book! I found myself trying to come up with a quick list of ideas for activities for T and then I thought I may as well share them with you! So here is a super-quick post of indoor and outdoor rainy day activities that I have literally written over breakfast (so sorry for lack of photos and shoddy punctuation – will tidy up later!) . Hope you find it useful :-).

1. Make some playdough! Recipe here: http://www.k-3teacherresources.com/play-dough-recipe.html

2. Get out some paints and paper and have fun getting messy! Splatter painting makes great “rainy” pictures (flicking paint-filled brushes with fingers). Athough this may be best done outside!

3. Take rubber ducks and boats to the park and float in puddles 🙂

4. OR (for older kids) make some boats and float. Foil makes great instant boats. Otherwise, plastic tubs from the recycling box. Supply older kids with a range of materials to make their boats.
Go outside with your boats and some little plastic people/animals and test them for a simple scientific experiment. Which floats the best? Why? Which holds the most animals? (If you have the book Mr Gumpy’s Outing, this is a great one to read before you go out!)

5. Get your wellies on, go on a Puddle Hunt and have a good old splash in some puddles!

6. Raid the recycling box and larder and make some simple shakers out of plastic bottles and pasta/rice

7. Sing some favourite songs with your homemade instruments

8. OR try YouTube for some new songs. We like Barefoot Books Songs (type into youtube) – they are great for actions and getting some of that energy out!

9. Make an obstacle course inside using cushions, boxes, tables, blankets. Combinations of Cushions and plastic boxes make great ramps, stepping stones and balance beams. Tables and blankets or blankets over the back of a sofa make great tunnels :-).

10. Read a book about minibeasts or look at some on google images together. Go outside on a minibeast hunt and take photos with your phone. Come back inside and talk about what you found. For older kids – draw pictures of them and label. Or make a paper plate minibeast (ladybirds, snails and spider paper plate crafts can all be found on the internet easily) using paints/collage pieces.
For toddlers, have them find the minibeasts in the photos on google images or in your mini-beasts book!

11. Duplo/Lego: give them an age appropriate challenge (build a tower of 3 bricks, build a dinosaur/fighter jet/number 6)

12. Get out the puzzle box and reward with stickers/treats/marbles towards a treat for completed puzzles!

13. Get out some clothes for your toddler to dress up in. Hats, scarves , glasses and shoes are the most fun. Then get out the camera and get some snaps to save for their wedding day speech!

14. Go to the library and find some information books or stories about wet weather. take home, snuggle up in your cosy book corner (or build a den and read together!

15. Easy messy play: grab a large baking or serving tray. Pour some flour (or corn-flour and water to make GLOOP!) in and let them play. Add cars little people or cutlery and let them explore.

Right, must go and grab my wellies…we are gonna go for number 3, 5 and 14.
Woohoo!
If you have any questions, just comment here – wrote in a rush so maybe haven’t been very clear.
Have a fun day everyone!

Marianne