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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Dinosaur Egg Small World Sensory Play Tray

There seems to be many phases kids go through with toys as they're growing up, but one that's almost certain for both boys and girls is the dinosaur phase. When I was little this was all thanks to The Land Before Time cartoons. Little Foot, Petrie, Cera, Ducky and Spike were soooo cute I used to watch the movie and cartoons on repeat.

When I had my girls and they first started getting into animal figurines I thought dinosaurs would quickly become favourites, however it took them a little while to get interested. Once Dinosaur Train was on ABC Kids however they got into dinosaurs in a big way. Then when Dino Dana and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures were added it just cemented their love for dinosaurs and the history of them. We've done many dinosaur play activities now, but this Dinosaur Egg Small World Tray we did recently has been a firm favourite.

DINOSAUR EGG SMALL WORLD PLAY TRAY


Do you ever come up with awesome ideas at the most random of times? It happens to me all the time {probably because my brain never switches off}. This dinosaur small world idea popped into my head while I was cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. I had an idea to do a dinosaur small world in the back of my mind for a while, but when I started cracking the eggs for breakfast it's like a light bulb suddenly went off in my head. 

Straight away I knew if I carefully cracked them right I could keep them and set up an awesome small world complete with real hatching eggs. So the rest of the eggs I cracked right down low near the base and carefully got the egg out then thoroughly rinsed them and put them aside. I wanted to set up a dinosaur nest loosely based on the intro to Dinosaur Train where Tiny, Shiny, Don and Buddy hatch out of the eggs as the theme song plays.

Dinosaur sensory small world play tray with chocolate flavoured mud.
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SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED





We didn't have to buy anything to do this activity as we have a tub of small river rocks that we use for all sorts of small world set ups and we have a growing collection of CollectA dinosaurs. I was going to set up the dinosaur nest on the rocks, but because we had 6 eggs to use I decided to go on a nature walk with the girls and collect other items so I could set up two different nests in two different dinosaur habitats. We found some bark in our garden and picked some fern fronds, curly leaves and a big leaf that reminded us of the tree stars in The Land Before Time.

We don't have any real dirt in our backyard so every time we need mud or dirt for small world play I make my own edible version. It's edible purely because I make it from pantry staples, not because I actually want my children to eat it {especially in a play tray like this where it will mix with leaves and bark}. However, it does mean if your children are curious and sneak a taste it won't do them any harm.

EDIBLE CHOCOLATE MUD RECIPE


1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Water {add as needed}

To make edible mud it's very similar to oobleck. I simply started with flour and then added cocoa powder until the mixture was brown enough to look like mud. The flour does make it a lot lighter than the normal dark brown colour of cocoa powder, however you can just keep adding more powder until you get the colour you're happy with. Once the powder is mixed together, slowly add water while stirring until you get a mud like consistency. 

DINOSAUR PLAY TRAY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES


Pincer grip
Hand strengthening
Hand/eye co-ordination
Tactile sensory stimulation
Hypothesising {what babies will hatch}
Dinosaur names & facts
Imaginary play

Dinosaur small world kmart play tray

I set up the dinosaur play tray inside while the girls waited outside. As soon as I decided to add chocolate mud to the small world I knew this would 100% be an outside activity, but I wanted to surprise them. They were so excited when I put the tray down and it had dinosaur eggs in it. When we went for our nature walk they knew we were collecting things for a dinosaur small world, but they had no idea I planned on adding eggs and babies

I gave them a little wooden mallet we have so they could crack the eggs open to make the babies hatch. Hitting the eggs was a great way to sneak in lots of fine motor practice while they gripped the mallet. They also had to concentrate and try to hit the eggshell in the right spot with the right amount of pressure to make them crack. This was of course quite easy for my eldest at almost 7, however it was a good way to get my 2yr old to work on her hand/eye co-ordination.

Children hitting egg shells in dinosaur play tray

Brachiosaurus close up in small world tray with other dinosaurs in the background
Both girls played together really well with this small world, despite their big age gap. Some of the activities we do descend into arguments pretty quickly or need to be done separately due to their different skill levels, however this play tray entertained them both for a long time. They even took turns sharing the mallet and smashing eggs one at a time.

Toy dinosaur baby figurine hatching out of an egg shell.

Using real eggshells made the hatching process look quite realistic. The baby dinosaur figurines looked so cute emerging from the cracked shells. The girls also had lots of fun guessing which dinosaurs would hatch out as I'd hidden them so they didn't know which mini figurines were under each egg. The eggshells also ended up providing lots of sensory stimulation as they cracked and crushed them while playing.

Baby stegosaurus dinosaurs hatching from eggs in small world play.
Children playing with chocolate sensory mud and toy dinosaur figurines

The chocolate mud was a huge hit, especially with my sensory seeking big girl. She loves getting her hands dirty and squishing, splashing and splatting any type of sensory material. She especially loves it when we use liquid based ones {which we don't do as often because of the extra mess}. She loved scooping up the mud then dripping it all over the dinosaurs.

Eventually it all descended into a big sensory play mess of gooey, slimy mud and crushed bark and eggshells. It actually looked quite reminiscent of a fancy body scrub when they were finally finished playing. Despite all the mess, it was really easy to clean up and the girls even did most of the clean up themselves washing all the rocks and dinosaurs in their mud kitchen. They've since asked on more than one occasion to repeat the play tray again.

Child's messy hands in chocolate mud sensory play.


DINOSAUR LEARNING RESOURCES ON AMAZON


If your kids are as inquisitive as mine then this dinosaur play activity may spark an ongoing interest in dinaosaurs {or maybe they're already firmly obsessed with them} so I've added a selection of dinosaur learning resources available on Amazon. There's lots of dinosaur books full of fun facts for children of all different ages and reading levels. There's also puzzles for toddlers through to older children and our favourite dinosaur shows The Dinosaur Train and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures.


Dinosaur small world play tray with real eggs.




Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.

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