Clay Dinosaur Fossils


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!


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 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:

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.


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!


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.


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!



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.


Here are our dinosaur fossils on our Project Table.


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


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.


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


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


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


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