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Friday, April 8, 2022

40+ Fun Dinosaur Play Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Dinosaurs tend to be an obsession for all kids - girls and boys - at some point in time. If you have a dino loving kid {or students} they'll love these hands-on dinosaur play ideas. I've put together a list of over 40 different fun ways to play with dinosaur figurines including hatching eggs, dinosaur sensory play, tinker trays, creating and digging for dinosaur fossils and how to create the perfect prehistoric small world.

These dinosaur activities are great for a dinosaur theme week during homeschooling or kindy, a dinosaur unit at school, or as fun activities to entertain kids at a dinosaur theme party. They're also perfect activities to foster imagination and learn more fun facts about these fascinating prehistoric creatures.

dinosaur figurines

Please note children under 3 should only play with large dinosaur figurines, as smaller dinosaurs and mini figurines may pose a choking risk to mouthing children. All activities should be done under under full adult supervision.


FUN DINOSAUR ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS


Become a mini palaeontologist and learn all about dinosaurs with these fun dinosaur figurine play ideas. Discover dinosaur fossils, hatch dinosaur eggs, recreate prehistoric times and explore the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods through play. 

If your kids love Dino Dana, Dinosaur Train, Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous or Andy's Prehistoric Adventures then they'll love these dinosaur activities.

MARK MAKING WITH DINOSAUR FIGURINES


Mark making is a great way for children to express themselves and be creative. Traditionally mark making is considered as a prewriting skill and is done with pencils, crayons, pens etc. However, it can also be done as a sensory experience using other objects and mediums. These are some fun ways children can explore mark making using dinosaurs figurines.

Dinosaur Footprints in Playdough

dinosaur footprints in playdough

Making dinosaur footprints in playdough is a great way for children to differentiate between the different feet of each dinosaur and observe them in more detail alongside each other. It's also a fun way to make trace fossils. You could also turn this into a matching game where children need to match the footprints to the respective dinosaur figurines.

Painting Dinosaur Tracks

dinosaur paint footprints

Painting is always popular with toddlers and there are so many fun ways to paint without a paintbrush, including using dinosaur figurines to paint dino tracks. You can experiment with different colours and types of paint, as well as different sized dinosaurs to create different tracks. Find out how Homeschool Preschool incorporated dinosaur track painting into their dinosaur study unit.

Imprint Dinosaur Fossils

child pushing dinosaur figurine into dough to make fossil

Children can use dinosaurs to imprint their feet or the sides of their bodies into dough to create dinosaur fossils. This is a great way to build hand muscles as the dinosaurs are pushed into the dough and pulled out to reveal the fossil print. Once the fossils have dried they can be used in sensory bins. Find out how to make fossils using coffee grounds as shown above, or using salt dough.

SHADOW PLAY WITH DINOSAURS


Shadows are somewhat magical, especially in the early years when children first recognise they have a shadow and explore how it can change at different angles. Shadow play is a great way to experience and explore concepts such as size, positioning, perspective and spatial awareness, shapes, cause and effect and imaginary play. These are some fun ways to shadow play with dinosaurs.

Matching Dinosaurs to Shadows 

matching dinosaur figurines with shadow cards

Matching dinosaur figurines to corresponding shadows is not only a fun activity, it also helps children to develop visual recognition skills and learn how to distinguish items by shape, rather than relying on colour or other visual characteristics. It also helps with other cognitive abilities such as attention to detail, concentration and critical thinking.

I created the dinosaur shadow flashcards above in Canva for my girls to use. You can also do matching games with regular dinosaur flash cards. The Creative Toy Shop sell a curated set of dinosaur figurines and flash cards here.

Draw Dinosaur Shadows

dinosaur shadow drawing

A fun dinosaur shadow play idea is to set them up on a piece of paper out in the sun to create a shadow like Emma Owl did. Then kids can trace around the shadow outline. To make the shadow drawing even more fun, leave the dinosaurs out for a few hours and trace the shadow each hour or two, to see how it moves across the page as the sun rises or sets.

Make Dinosaur Shadows at Night 


Turn your toy dinosaurs into puppets by using a torch at night time. The kids can move the dinosaurs around to create their own puppet show before bed. This is a great way to foster imagination, creativity and language skills.



HOW TO MAKE HATCHING DINOSAUR EGGS


If your kids or students love surprise eggs then they'll love finding and hatching mini dinosaurs from eggs. Breaking open the eggs to discover and release the dinosaurs is a great fine motor work out and can be done using a variety of tools depending on what type of eggs you're using.

There are many different ways to hatch dinosaur eggs and you don't need to rely on buying hatching eggs, you can easily make your own at home. Whichever type of egg you choose to make, you'll need small dinosaurs to put inside them, our favourites are CollectA mini figurines and the Safari dino babies toob.



Clay Dinosaur Eggs

clay dinosaur eggs

Children will have so much fun hunting to find these clay dinosaur eggs then cracking them open. You can make these eggs easily using air drying clay and some plastic Easter eggs. Find out how Liska made and added texture to her eggs and created a dinosaur egg hunt at Adventures in a Box.

Playdough Dinosaur Eggs

playdough dinosaur eggs

Playdough is a great medium to create dinosaur eggs as it's soft enough to mould and for younger children to break apart using only their fingers. You can use homemade playdough or store bought playdoh. It can also be left out to go hard on the outside if you prefer hard dinosaur eggs. See how we made and played with our playdoh eggs.

DIY Mud Dough Dinosaur Eggs

DIY mud dinosaur hatching eggs

If your kids love playing with mud then try these easy DIY mud dinosaur eggs that are made from a simple dough mixture that includes real dirt. This is a great way to bring some outdoor fun indoors. Find out how to make mud dinosaur eggs at Hello Wonderful.

Fizzing Dinosaur Eggs

fizzing dinosaur eggs

Making fizzy dinosaur eggs is just as much fun as hatching them. The dinosaur eggs are made with a bicarb mixture and you can hatch the dinosaurs out of the egg by making them fizz and dissolve with vinegar. 

This is a great simple science activity to teach children about chemical reactions and a fun way to build hand strength while squeezing a pipette or spraying a spray bottle to hatch the eggs. Find out how to make your own fizzing dino eggs at Little Bins for Little Hands.

Frozen Dinosaur Eggs

dinosaur ice eggs

Frozen dinosaur eggs are so easy to make, all you'll need is water and some balloons. Even though they're see through so the dinosaur isn't a surprise as such, it's still lots of fun to try and hatch the dinosaurs from the frozen eggs. 

Children can use either salt and water, a small mallet, or a squeeze bottle or pipettes of warm water to free the dinosaurs. Find out how to set up your own frozen dinosaur egg activity at Montessori From the Heart.

Coffee Ground Dinosaur Eggs

dinosaur eggs made from coffee ground

Make these realistic dinosaur eggs using coffee grounds, sand and a few other household ingredients. These eggs dry hard and textured and will need to be broken open with a hammer or mallet. Find out how to make them at Kids Activities Blog.

Hatch Dinosaurs from real Eggs

hatching egg dinosaur play tray

It's also possible to hatch dinosaurs from real eggs using empty egg shells. We used this method when we did our Dinosaur egg small world tray and the girls loved being able to smash open the eggs and help the dinosaurs hatch. There's a trick to getting the dinosaurs into the eggs, find out how we did it here. Warning, this one can get a bit messy if you add the chocolate mud.


DINOSAUR SENSORY BINS & BOTTLES


Sensory play is a great way for children to develop their senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. By engaging in sensory play children will build nerve connections in their brain encouraging the development of both language and fine motor skills. Sensory bins and bottles are generally tactile and visual where children can learn about different textures, colours and objects, by exploring wet, dry, hard, soft, cold or hot sensory materials in various ways.

Washing Dinosaurs Sensory Tub

washing dinosaurs sensory tub

One of the easiest dinosaur sensory bins to do with toddlers is washing dinosaurs like Active Littles did. Simply fill a tub with soapy water and let them scrub the dinosaurs with brushes, sponges or washers. Make sure to use larger plastic dinosaurs so there's no choking risk and always supervise children around water.

Snow Dinosaur Sensory Bin

snow sensory bin with dinosaurs

If you live in the northern hemisphere or one of the few places down south that gets snow then try making this simple snow sensory bin. Bring the snow inside for some icy prehistoric fun like Happy Toddler Playtime.

Dig for Dinosaur Skeletons

dinosaur skeleton sensory bin

Become a real life palaeontologist and dig for dinosaur skeleton fossils in this fun sensory bin. Use a toothbrush or paintbrush to carefully dig through kinetic sand to discover hidden dinosaur skulls and full dinosaur skeletons. Find out how Fireflies and Mudpies created their dinosaur sensory bin here.


Dinosaur Sensory Bin with Moon Sand

dinosaur moon sand sensory bin

Repurposing a water play table is a great way to set up a sensory tub with different sensory bases as each will have a defined area. This dinosaur sensory tub has a moon sand section and water section for both wet and dry sensory play. Moon sand has a similar texture to kinetic sand, but you can make it yourself. Get the recipe from Little Bins for Little Hands.

Muddy Dinosaur Sensory Play

taste safe dinosaur mud sensory bin

Have some taste safe messy fun with this chocolate mud dinosaur sensory bin. All you need are dinosaurs and the chocolate mud recipe from My Bored Toddler. If you're doing this tub with children under 3 I recommend using larger dinosaur figurines.


Dinosaur Slime Sensory Play

dinosaur slime play

For more messy fun, try making a squishy dinosaur slime bowl. Make the slime using a few household ingredients and the recipe from Picklebums. Please note this slime is not edible or taste safe.

Dinosaur Sensory Bin

dinosaur pumpkin seed sensory bin

This simple sensory bin by Taming Little Monsters, uses a sensory base of pumpkin seeds, some mini dinosaurs and a few fake plants. It can be put together in less than 5 minutes.

Dinosaur Rice Sensory Bin

dinosaur sensory bin with rice and beans

This dinosaur sensory bin from Happy Toddler Playtime is another super simple idea using green rice and pinto beans as the sensory base. Adding a few bowls also lets kids scoop and pour in addition to imaginary play with the dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Garden Jar

dinosaur jar terrarium

These jars are just like little dinosaur terrariums. They'll have to be put together by adults, but they'd make great party favours, room d├ęcor or I-spy bottles for preschoolers. Messy Little Monster even turned hers into night lights, find out how here.

Dinosaur I-Spy Bottle

dinosaur i-spy bottle

Busy Bins Sensory Play sell these dinosaur I-spy bottles featuring brown rice, small rocks and mini dinosaur figurines. Kids will have so much fun turning the bottle around trying to find all the dinosaurs. You can make similar bottles using a plastic bottle, sensory rice and dinosaur figurines.


DINOSAUR SMALL WORLD PLAY IDEAS


Small world play involves using small realistic props to create detailed little play worlds, which children can use to act out real experiences, or retell stories and shows. Small world play is a great way to aid in social and emotional development, encourage creativity and foster imagination. Dinosaur small world play can include creating small prehistoric worlds with dinosaur figurines and other relevant props as shown below.

Dinosaur Volcano Small World

dinosaur volcano small world

The girls wanted a small world with a volcano, so instead of opting for a messy bicarb and vinegar volcano I decided to make one with playdough and red play silk lava. To make it the centrepiece of our small world I set it up in the middle of our monkey pod sectioned tray. Then in each of the out sections I created different dinosaur landscapes. I'll have a detailed blog post of this dinosaur volcano small world soon.

Dinosaur Play Tray

dinosaur small world kmart play tray

This dinosaur play tray was our first ever dinosaur play activity back when we only had 3 dinosaur figurines. I kept it really simple and combined playdough, river rocks, dried chickpeas, mossy rocks and an aquarium plant to create little sections for each dinosaur.

Dinosaur Habitat Small World Tray

dinosaur dip tray small world

When the girls were younger I used plastic dip trays to create small worlds a lot as they easily keep sections separated, which is particularly useful when using multiple sensory bases like this dinosaur habitat small world. To make this one I used our mini CollectA dinosaur figurines and created different terrains with cous cous, wood slices, sticks and stones, mud water and a mossy rock.

Dinosaur Play Mat Small World



The easiest small world I've ever set up was this dinosaur play mat small world. It took literally 1 minute as it only required our Melanie Shanks dinosaur play mat and a set of our mini CollectA dinosaur figurines. The great thing about this is that its completely portable.

Dinosaur Swamp Tuff Tray

dinosaur swamp tuff tray

This dinosaur swamp by The Imagination Tree is great for outdoor play on the tuff tray and perfect for groups of children to play with at once. Using all natural items, it's also a fun nature play activity children will love exploring.


I'm a Dirty Dinosaur Small World

I'm a dirty dinosaur small world

We often use small worlds as part of bookish play to retell stories. After reading I'm a Dirty Dinosaur with the girls I put together a very simple small world that incorporated the dirt and the swamp from the book. The girls could recreate the story through play by getting the dinosaurs dirty in the chocolate dirt then washing them off in the green swamp. 


Dinosaur Sensory Small World

dinosaur sensory small world kit available on Etsy

Make a super easy dinosaur small world with this dinosaur sensory bin kit from Jallie Play Co. The kit comes with everything pictured above including the sensory bases and dinosaurs.

Dinosaur River Small World

dinosaur small world with rocks and sand

This dinosaur river small world is a great way to incorporate different terrains using only dry sensory bases. Find out everything Simple Everyday Mom used to put together her small world here. Note you can add real water to the river if you want to.

Dinosaur Water Table Small World

dinosaur small world in water table

Fantastic and Fun Learning transformed their water table into a huge dinosaur small world with water, sand and dirt areas. Find out all the different sensory bases and items they used to create their small world here.

Dinosaur Train Small World

dinosaur train playdough small world

Do your kids watch The Dinosaur Train? My girls were obsessed with it for a long time so I put together a Dinosaur Train small world tray using playdough and toys we already had. They got to act out the dinosaurs riding the train and going through the time tunnels into different periods of the Mesozoic Era. I'll have a detailed blog post of this small world tray coming soon, watch this space!

Dinosaur Small World in a Suitcase

dinosaur travel small world in a suitcase

If you feel like getting crafty, you can make this dinosaur small world in a suitcase with a paper mache suitcase, felt and some glitter foam. The great thing about this small world is it's all contained and it's portable so it can be taken to friends houses, appointments, on long car trips or on flights to entertain the kids. Find out how The Craft Train made it here.

Dinosaur Mini Garden

dinosaur garden

If you love the idea of fairy gardens, but your kids love dinosaurs more, then make a miniature dinosaur garden instead. You can get everything needed to make the dinosaur garden above in a kit from Lily Abby, including the container.

Outdoor Dinosaur Garden

dinosaur sensory garden

If you want a more permanent dinosaur garden you can do what Little Lifelong Learners did and make a huge dinosaur small world in a large rectangular planter box. The garden small world uses real soil and plants with other secured rock caves, a pond and lots of large dinosaur figurines. Kids can move the dinosaurs around the planter box as they play and if you ever need to move it it's still portable.

Dinosaur Small World Table

dinosaur small world on a train table

If you prefer indoor play you can transform a train table into a small world table and rotate the set ups like Little Lifelong Learners does. She hacked the Kmart train table to create this dinosaur small world table which also incorporates vertical play. Have a look at all the other ways she's used her train table here.


DINOSAUR INVITATIONS TO PLAY


An invitation to play is about presenting a group of related items in a tinker box or on a tray and then allowing the child to play with those items however they like. It's similar to loose parts play, where the child is entirely in control of the process and outcome of the play.

They may decide to create their own version of a small world, do simple patterning or sequencing, count the objects, match items in groups, or simply engage in imaginary play. They could also choose to add other items or toys etc. The possibilities are endless.

dinosaur playdough kit

This dinosaur playdough tinker tray comes with everything kids will need to create some roarsome dinosaur fun. The set is from Happy Life Magic and comes with all the items above, including homemade playdough and dinosaur eggs that come alive in water.

dinosaur playdough kit from etsy

This dinosaur playdough kit from Ava and Coco is an affordable way to create a dinosaur invitation to play in just a few minutes, no prep needed.

dinosaur playdough invitation to play

Fantastic and Fun Learning put together this inviting dinosaur tinker tray using plain playdough, glass pebbles, river rocks and driftwood. They also added small foam eggs, the Safari baby dinosaurs toob and Sarafi trees toob.

dinosaur playdough tray invitation to play

The Play Tray Company sell this enticing dinosaur play tray which comes with all the open ended resources shown above. It also comes with question prompts you can use whilst playing with your child.

40+ Dinosaur Play Ideas for kids

DINOSAUR BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS


If your children or students are keen to learn more about dinosaurs including which dinosaurs lived during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, have a read of some of these great kids dinosaur books. Filled with interesting facts, maps, and detailed illustrations these books provide scientific information in a way that appeals to children.



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

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