When teaching certain topics and themes in early childhood education, it’s hard to know where to start.
There are themes like dinosaurs, for example, that are so broad and ambiguous that there are so many ideas out there. The best thing to do before you start is find out in the beginning of your unit what your students already know and what they want to learn. Once you document these responses, it will help shape where you decide to explore during the unit.
I appreciate that each preschool dinosaur activity listed below isn’t just a time-filler or a “cutesy” craft that loosely refers to dinosaurs. Just because something has dinosaur clipart, doesn’t make it a dinosaur activity. Instead, the following activities are meaningful and help build upon the knowledge students have about dinosaurs.
This is a great introductory activity with names of dinosaurs at the beginning of your unit. While I show various photos of dinosaurs to my PreK kids, I see if they know the names of the dinosaurs. Surprisingly, most kids know many of the names, some more than me!
After showing them photos and labeling them with their correct names, playing this game of BINGO is a fun way to reinforce the names they learned. This can be done in a center or as a small group. This is a great fine motor activity as well as integrates math with classification and counting! Once a student gets “Bingo,” consider having a fun prize or a class “dino clap” for the student. ‘
The size of dinosaurs is always so fascinating to kids (and adults!). After showing some life-size photos of what dinosaurs may have looked like, have the students compare sizes of different dinosaurs.
One way to start this activity before measuring the toys is researching how many feet dinosaurs were, and line your students up on the floor laying down to see how many “kids long” a dinosaur was. This is always so fun for children to see how massive they were!
For the measuring activity, have toys that show “accurate” sizes of them compared to one another (i.e. you wouldn’t want to use a tiny T-Rex figure and a huge velociraptor figure). Have students choose how they want to measure their dinosaurs to see which is tallest, shortest, widest, etc. This is a great introduction to measurement! They can use string, blocks, measuring tape, etc.
Once they choose their type of measuring tool, they can create bar graphs and compare the sizes of all the dinosaurs. This is a great way to integrate math into your unit.
This is a great activity to do prior to learning about fossils. What do dinosaur tracks look like? Are they different from our tracks? Different from dog tracks?
Choose dinosaur figures from your classroom that are big enough to leave distinct tracks, and have the art center set up for children to dip the dinosaur in paint and then create tracks on large butcher paper set up. It’s helpful for the paper to be on a flat surface so that children can play with the dinosaur standing and “walking.” To extend the activity further, ask each student to pick one dinosaur and create an area of tracks.
Once the large paper dries, hang it up on the wall nearby. Then, have a bin of the dinosaurs and see if the students can match the dinosaur with the correct footprint. This is a fun activity that will encourage problem-solving and coordination! Once this activity is complete, you can introduce your students to the idea of fossils.
Fossils can be studied in so many different ways, and this is one way to use household items that you will have at home or even at school since we are all mostly coffee drinkers! (Plus, it smells really good, which is a bonus!)
It’s best to use the same dinosaur toys that were used in the painting activity so they are big enough to distinguish their “footprints” when you press them down into the dough. Students can practice fine motor skills when creating the dough, and then really pay attention to the details of how different the footprints, tail prints, etc look when comparing the dough samples. Once they harden, the fossils can be placed in your science center or even your math center for matching, sorting, and comparing.
When it comes to integrating gross motor skills as well as social/emotional skills, this activity is a great addition! You can do this even when you’re not teaching about dinosaurs, but it is a bonus when you’re in that unit of study. Students learn stretches and poses that are named after the dinosaurs they are learning about.
This is a fun way to incorporate mindfulness, self-regulation, and balance techniques. I like doing this activity as a whole group a few times, and then I put it in our “calming corner” for students to do on their own when they want to relax, stretch, or calm down a bit. Doing this throughout the year is a fun way to review dino names while instilling healthy habits!
The best part of these preschool dinosaur activities is that you can revisit them at any point of the school year to reinforce skills that don’t have to be about dinosaurs. And even still, these are meaningful activities that help students learn more about these extinct creatures. When it comes to themes, my philosophy is to always notice the interest level of the students and questions they have, and then use that as the blueprint for how to explore the topic. If it is completely teacher-driven, then students will not enjoy it as much. If students have a “say” in what they are learning about, they take ownership, and they will feel empowered to learn more!
For even more activities, check out our full daycare activities page!