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Ways to Introduce Dinosaurs

September 14, 2008

What follows are suggested ways to introduce the summer program to your children. There isn’t only one right way. When you introduce a new topic of study, it is always helpful to make it novel or different than what happens day-to-day. It captures their attention and gives them time to think about what they already know about the topic. From that foundation, your child will continue adding new information that she learned from her new experiences.

Here are some ways you can introduce Discovering Dinosaurs:

  • Take your family for a nature walk.  Let your children discover the world around them and gently guide the discussion towards animals that roamed here years ago.
  • Another way to start is by reading books together with your children (list of great books) about dinosaurs and talking about them is an excellent way to build on what your child already knows.  If your child has a favorite dinosaur, follow his or her lead. Compare other dinosaurs to his/her favorite.  Adapt the following activities to include your child’s current interests.
  • Going to a local museum where they have dinosaur bones on display or even planning a family trip to see Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago. It would be an excellent way to capture your child’s attention and interest. Whatever you plan, include your child in some of the choices.  He takes ownership of his learning when he has some control over it.
  • Or first thing in the morning you can create your own jungle-type atmosphere while your children are still in bed. Setting up a path like an obstacle course would be fun for the kids to go through while you guide them. It could be set up inside or outside using items you already have. It can be as simple as walking around a table twice saying your going around a large tree, cross a river over large boulders, jump over a rug that could be a sleeping tortoise.  Or go outside using a garden hose to make a twisting path which you can have them crawl along to reach another activity in the obstacle course.  It should be fun and silly, including approximately 5 -10 obstacles. The point is to change the environment to have your child eager to see what comes next. Along the way you might have a sound effects recording of a volcano, buzzing insects, birds calling or the chattering of monkeys. If you have a fern plant, place it or just a single leaf along the path so he rubs against it or have to look at it. Lighting some musk incense beforehand would create a bog smell. You may want to place something at the end of the path to use as a transition from one activity to another.  For instance: an old looking bone covered in dirt (actual dinosaur bones are available topurchase at many museums or it could be a soup bone from the butcher)  or a great book on dinosaur digs to read at the end of the path. Now you’re ready for the day to begin.
    Your children can have breakfast while you relax for a few minutes before you explain that today they are going on an adventure as soon as…breakfast is done; Johnny is dressed…whatever works for you. Ask your child what he thinks he will need to take on an adventure. If it isn’t too unmanageable, like a bed, take it along. He may come up with a camera or water…. but for this part of the adventure, anything goes. The important thing is that you have captured his attention. Then blindfold your child (you may need to reassure him that it is only for a moment) and explain you are morphing or changing into a tour director for an adventure or a dig . While his eyes are closed, change into a safari-type outfit – tan pants and vest with pockets or fishing gear, it should be something you wouldn’t normally wear, the sillier in keeping with the theme, the better. You can explain that the blindfold is to help him imagine traveling back in time, then you may want to gently turn him around a few times or say some “magic” time travel words like: “Take us to the time before man!” in your best tour director voice. When you take off his blindfold, express amazement at the new land that you have traveled to will add to the drama. If you want to point out the volcano over by the couch and ask him if he can see it in his imaginations. Surely there will be giggles, but you need to stay in character. Then, in character, take your group through the path that you have set up earlier. He will willingly follow you. Watch his reaction and ask open-ended questions as you go through the path.

    • Where do you think we are?
    • What makes you think that?
    • What kinds of animals do you think we might find?

Whatever way you choose to introduce the Discovering Dinosaurs, the goal is to have your child excited and involved in the planning of the dinosaur dig. Ask him what he thinks he would need to go on a dinosaur dig. With his help, brainstorm what he’ll need to make the adventure possible. The important thing with brainstorming is that every idea is valid and none should be dismissed immediately. If your child gets the feeling that his ideas don’t matter, you won’t get the response that you are going for. Children come up with the best ideas and they can be very innovative when they have opportunities to express themselves in a non-threatening atmosphere. Be open to ideas; you may want to write them all down so your child sees you value his input.

Here are some of the areas you may want to guide them to:

  • What was the habitat like long ago? (For some children you’ll need to explain what a habitat is and introducing them to new words is great.)
  • Are there any plants that we could make that may look like plants back then? Let’s look in a book to see.
  • Do you have any favorite dinosaurs?
  • What do you know about dinosaurs already?
  • What would you like to learn about dinosaurs?
  • What kinds of dinosaurs should we learn more about?
  • What makes dinosaurs so different from animals today?

When you’re brainstorming with your child make a mental note to what he got excited about and what he already knows.  That is what you will build on.  Follow his interests while you explore dinosaurs together. It will be an incredible journey.

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One Response to Ways to Introduce Dinosaurs

  1. Jerri on April 30, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Great post,
    I am glad to read your article.
    Thanks for the posting.

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