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 to find out at 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 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.
This is a great introductory activity with the 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 the 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.
Enjoying these activities ideas so far? Check out our Activities Database for more dinosaur activity ideas and tons of other curated activities for toddlers and preschoolers!
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!
Learn matching and sorting by using any dinosaur toys, manipulatives, or dinosaur stickers, what similarities can you see? What differences? Children learn how to match the ones that are the same or use the sorting resource to sort them.
This is a fun way to learn about similarities and differences in objects. Some children may match them based on color others may match them based on the type of dinosaur.
Talk about how scientists sometimes have to guess how dinosaurs looked because fossils and bones don’t always provide all the details of the animals. Invite the children to create their own fossils!
For younger children, they may be more interested in making prints with a variety of items, remember, it is about the process not the product at the end. Allow them time to explore different prints.
To stretch this activity, engage children in a conversation about other types of fossils paleontologists discover? Can plants create fossils or only bones?
In this dinosaur activity, talk about the habitat that dinosaurs lived in. Explain that habitat is the natural home or environment of a living thing. Just like our planet now, Earth long ago had different geographical areas that offered different kinds of weather and resources. Dinosaurs in different periods also experienced different kinds of climates. Dinosaurs are thought to have lived in areas including wetlands, grassy plains, forests, and the ocean. They had specific characteristics to help them survive in their unique habitats!
This dinosaur art activity is a perfect way for children to use their imagination!
Fill your art station with dinosaur-related materials and art supplies for children to create their own prehistoric works of art. Include items such as dinosaur stencils, stickers, stamps, coloring pages, clay, and cookie cutters.
Encourage children to collage items such as shredded paper, scrap paper, feathers, bits of straw, raffia, and aquarium gravel to create their own piece of art!
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!
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