Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dinosaur arts and crafts:

Dinosaur Pictures With Textures:

 Children love different textures, so we decided to make dinosaur art with all sorts of different textures.

1. Melted crayon:
This one requires close adult supervision. We started out by tracing pages from a dinosaur colouring book. Next we held old crayons in a candle's flames and dripped the wax onto the pictures. The results were beautiful, colourful dinosaurs with a lumpy scale like texture.

2. Feathers:
The big buzz in paleontology right now is feathered dinosaurs. Although the fossil evidence is pretty limited - more and more books are depicting dinosaurs with feathers -and accurate or not - it certainly is fun. Simply take a traced or printed dinosaur colouring page, paint it with glue and then stick on very small cut up pieces of feather.

3. Sand paper dinos:
Use a very coarse grade sand paper and cut into dinosaur shaped. Paint using acrylic paint for the most remarkable and durable finishes, but ordinary child's paint will work as well. Then paste onto coloured jungle scenes.

4. Glitter Glue:
Once again we start with a template of a colouring page traced, photocopied or printed from an online source. The first step is to carefully trace the outline leaving a thick bead of glitter glue. Once this is completely dry, paint teh picture in and sprinkle with a bit more glue.

5. Paper Mache cut outs:
Cut out dinosaur shapes, plants and trees. from card or cereal boxes. Mix flour salt and water in a paste and dip tin strips of kitchen roll into these, and cover the dinosaur adding extra bits to give a 3D appearance,. Paint and dry. Paint a prehistoric scene onto a bit of card and glue the dinosaurs on.

 Lightly colour a piece of paper with  Crayola Crayons, or use markers if you wish. Use plenty of colours - preferably bright ones.  For the second layer, colour very heavily with crayon. It does need to be a good brand of crayon - and I would recommend Crayola. Next lay a dinosaur stencil over the paper and using a tooth pick, the back of a paint brush or anything small you can scrape with, scrape away the top layer of crayon to reveal a colourful dinosaur image.

Foil Art:
 Have the child draw a dinosaur on a very heavy card or a bit of cardboard. The inside of a cereal box works perfectly. If you prefer, you can cut out a printed dinosaur picture and paste it on instead. Next draw around the outline with white glue, leaving a heavy bead. Allow this to dry completely before the next step. Cover with aluminium foil  rubbing lightly until the heavy line of the glue shows through.  Wrinkle sin the rest of foil are a good thing - so don't try to smooth them all out. Tape the foil down behind the cardboard. Mix 1 part white glue, 2 parts water and a few drops of food colour for each colour or a very good quality water colour paint. Paint over the foil. wiping excess paint off the raised outline. Let dry and you have a nice shiny piece of foil art.

 Using and old shoe box lay the lid face up with the one side of the box glued to the lid leaving a larger area of ground and an enclosed space for background. Colour or paint in a prehistoric back ground scene on paper and tape to the back and inside walls of the box. Then cut out trees, a volcano and other shapes. Glue these to car to make them stiff and place them  on the lid - some closer to the back and some to the front for a 3D effect. You can either use tiny plastic dinosaurs or paper cuts outs to complete the scene. A flying Pterosaur adds a nice touch as well.

If you want to make a really fancy diorama - start with a rectangular plastic aquarium - use clay and cloth to fashion plants, volcanoes, rocks etc... and model dinosaurs. For the back use a sheet of aluminium foil over a bit of card. You can give this a wash of blue paint if you wish. Then cut out  background plants in three colours of coloured card and layer these over the foil.

Dinosaur Imprints:
 Simply press model dinosaurs into clay. Allow to dry and paint.

Dinosaur sock puppets:
 A coloured sock with the end folded inwards to make a mouth makes an easy start on a dinosaur. Add eyes, teeth and a few distinguishing features like a crest or plates and you have a quick and easy dino.

Dinosaur egg candles:
Carefully poke a small hole at the bottom of an egg and a larger one at the top. Blow the contents of the egg out - a good time to bake a cake or make eggy toast. Rinse and dry. Then thread a wick through the holes leaving plenty at both ends. Tape up the bottom. An adult will have to melt and pour the wax, but you use old candle wax and broken crayons. Let the child choose the colours add one colour, wait a few minutes and add another, layering colours. Let teh child give the shell a swirl. Let this dry for a few days and peel away the shell.

Walking with Dinosaurs footprints:
Fill a square plastic dish pan or other tray at least 3" fill with damp levelled play sand. Carefully press the shape of a dinosaur footprint into the sand, two if you have room, using only one side of the tray. Next have your child place one foot into the tray then step across leaving two footprints. If this doesn't come out just right mix it up and try again. Fill the tray with a thin layer of plaster of Paris. Let dry, paint and then paint again with clear varnish or clear drying white glue to make it less fragile.

Pasta Pictures:
Start with dark coloured card. Cut out and glue a dinosaur skeleton picture on to the card. Select a variety of pasta shapes, including spaghetti, small elbow macaroni, shells - crushed and whole  + whatever else looks interesting. Glue bits of pasta ( raw) over the skeleton picture. If you want to make this really exciting - paint the pasta with glow in the dark glue first and let dry.

Making Fossils:
Get a couple of plastic replica fossils or skeletons and press into plasticine. Fill with plaster and paint.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Dinosaur Unit Study and activities - home school / home education

 A unit study is simply a theme for home education. It can be in addition to regular text book work - or almost all activities can be based around a single theme. Living in Belfast, I have been unable to find an affordable packaged curriculum - which means I make my own. We do use some text books - but I also like to let the children explore their own favourite topics - which in our house often means dinosaurs. Here are some of our ideas for Dinosaur activities:

 We were quite lucky that the Ulster Museum recently hosted a visiting dinosaur exhibit - but even without this, there are always some fossils on display and a replica skeleton. A museum visit is a great way start for a dinosaur unit study. While you are there I would strongly suggest asking staff for information on local fossil hunting.

There are several prepackaged fossil kits for children - some of which are quite reasonable - but nothing can compare to finding your own. Of course you aren't likely to dig up a T-Rex in your back garden - but if you consult local books and experts as to where to look you will be very likely to find some type of fossil with enough effort.  We've only found two a small aquatic life form and a plant, and this was after days of searching, but we do learn by our failures as well. We are beginning to learn what types of rocks to look in. And once you've found something - identifying it is loads of fun as well. But because it will take so long to build up a collection like this - we have added to it with a packaged set from Amazon, and a couple of bits from our museum gift shop.

Make your own fossils:
 After reading several books on imprint fossils, my son still couldn't quite grasp the idea. Taking some model dinosaurs and skeletons and pressing them into clay immediately showed him how it works. We could see the scaly skin patterns in the clay, or the imprint of bones, footprints etc.... We used air drying clay and painted it afterwards - making some nice decorations to hang up, but you can also press imprints into sand and fill with plaster, or even melted wax - a good way to get rid of broken crayons and left over candle wax.

Digging for dinos:
 We set up a large plastic box with a bag of play sand and buried a number of model dinosaurs. I was really surprised by the amount of time the children spent happily digging these out. To make it more exciting - buy a dinosaur skeleton model- or two  and bury the pieces. Trying to figure out which bone goes to which dinosaur can be trying - but can give some insight into a real paleontologists work.

 We cut pictures from magazines or images printed from the computer and lay them face up on clear fablon or contact paper. Then we carefully cut them out again, resulting in a very durable picture. We actually painted a solid colour border on the wall of our play room/ school room, but you can easily take a bargain strip of wall paper border and paint the back different colours for different periods and eras. Then tape or blue tack this down the length of a hall, across a large wall, or even around a room. Finally, the children tape or blue tack the various dinosaurs and other creatures onto the correct time period.

Classifying dinosaurs:
 We also make our own books using simple page protectors and 3 ring binders, or report portfolios. Children can classify animals by type of animal - such as flying reptile, Permian reptile, dinosaur etc... by era, by diet, or habitat.  We did a project where we tried to predict a dinosaurs diet using clues such as placement of eyes, teeth, claws, and brain size. We also used modern grocery store fliers to cut out pictures of foods for carnivores, herbivores and  omnivores, and added pictures of dinosaurs according to their diets.

Dinosaur Maths:
 Get out the tape measure and chalk and mark off the length of various species of dinosaurs out on the street or footpath. This gives children a much better concept of size than a book. Try to find out the height of power poles or local buildings so you can compare the taller dinosaurs in height to those as well.

 Take the estimated sizes of many dinosaurs and make charts and maths problems - how much larger was Spinosaurus compared to T Rex? Which was longer Apatosaurus or Brachiosaurus?

Fact or Fiction?
 Choose some dinosaur movies - Jurassic Park being the most obvious. How many mistakes can you find? For instance Velociraptor is much larger in the films - perhaps to make it more frightening. Can you think of a dinosaur that would have been better in Velociraptors place? ( A Troodon is closer to the size of the film's most frightening creatures - and also the smartest dinosaur). How many of the dinosaurs actually lived in the Jurassic Period? We also noted that Pterosaurs would certainly not be confined to an island - they were meant to have migrated for incredible distances. There are many other mistakes in the film - such as the idea of Tyrannosaurus Rex not being able to see you if held still. This is a creature that hunts by smell.  You'll likely find many errors we missed, but it doesn't matter if you find more or less, the idea is to think critically and approach the question using scientific information.

What do you think of cloning ? Wouldn't they need an egg? the right size for each species? Any other major mistakes in the cloning idea? These films may not me good science, but they are a wonderful way to encourage scientific discussion and thought.

Reading and Writing:
 I will not list any books here as I have listed so many in the two preceding blogs, but of course a good dinosaur unit study would involve reading as many books on the subject as possible. Children can then write their own articles about their favourite dinosaurs for their own home made books, or even fictional stories involving dinosaurs. It cold be a about a species previously thought extinct being rediscovered - or a the use of cloning like Jurassic Park. Perhaps time travel could provide the basis for a good dinosaur story - or imagine what if the dinosaurs had never become extinct. Could Troodon have evolved into a species like humans - would humans have evolved at all. Or if you don't believe in evolution at all - your child could write about a scenario expressing your own beliefs. Did humans and dinosaurs live at the same time - it could make a great story. The ideas for creative writing are endless.

Grow your own prehistoric pet:
Triops date back from before the time of the dinosaurs. Amazon sells several kits to hatch one out - but they fail to mention this creature can not survive cold. Either raise these in the warmer months or buy a small tank and heater. Keep in mind the life span is only 3 months - so no matter how well your child cares for this pet - it will die. The good side is, if you keep a few and dry out the sand - you may be able to hatch new ones the next year.

Prehistoric plants:
Many plants from prehistoric times have survived, including ferns and buttercups. Grow a small prehistoric garden.

Arts and Crafts:
This will have to wait for my next blog as I have too many craft ideas to fit into this one.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Dinosaur books for children and toddlers.

 Please see my previous post Paleaontology and dinosaur books for older children as many books will appeal to more than one age group as well. These are my recommendations for younger dinosaur mad children, including both fiction and no fiction. The links in blue are to my reviews on dooyoo which will be longer and more in depth.

Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus
This is a rhyming story with a brilliant rhythm that even the youngest child will pick up on. It starts of with "a quake and a quiver and a rumbling around" and builds up to a proper dinosaur bash. There is a bit of a fright as a fearsome Tyrannosaurus crashes is, but thankfully he only wants to join in the fun and the wild romp continues until finally the exhausted dinosaurs tumble in heap and fall asleep.

When my children were babies I acted out the dance with them - waving their arms stamping their feet etc... Now that they are older they do themselves and our whole house shakes with the dinosaur romp.

 In my opinion, this is one of the best books ever for babies and still very popular with older children. It is bright, colourful and teaches children a number of dinosaur names, but more importantly, it teaches young children to love books. I read this book to both of my sons froma  very early age ( 8 months and 6 months) and both fell in love with the story. It is still popular today and theya re now ages 4 and 7.  If you could buy only one book for a young a child - I would recommend this one.

The Three Little Dinosaurs
Second only to Bumpus Jumpsus Dinosaurumpus, this is another wonderful story book for children from infancy up to perhaps age 8.

I bought this book for my 4 year old as my 7 year has long since outgrown picture books. As it turned it though, both boys loved this and laughed until they had tears in their eyes. I had no sooner finished reading the book when they both asked to hear it again. This book is a twist on the classic story of the three little pigs but told with so much humour it is certain to be a favourite with any child who loves dinosaurs - and most likely a number who do not. The banter between the dinosaurs is brilliantly scripted. The T -Rex insists on calling the little Brachiosaurs pigs and it develops into a first class slagging match in which the bully always comes off the worst.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is determined to eat the three tiny Brachiosaurs. But they finally find safety in a house of stone. T-Rex won't give up though - he spends years plotting and planning. But while Brachiosaurs are born small, like all sauropods - they grow very rapidly. When Tyrannosaurus returns he gets quite a surprise. This means this book could also be a good a choice for a child dealing with bullies, but the main reason to buy this book is just for the fun of it. This is the type of book that will encourage children to grow up loving books. This is the type of book that children can enjoy listening to for years to come.

I have collected children's books for many years, and in all honesty have a larger collection than most children's libraries. We only keep the best books and even so have book cases in every room of the house. Even with a collection this large - this stands out as one of the very best picture books I have ever found.

Dinosaur (DK Touch and Feel)
 Another book for infants, but still enjoyed by older children, this book allows children to feel the scaly skin of a dinosaur and the sticky tongue of T Rex. Most young children very much enjoy tactile books and this adds a whole new dimension to story time.

Danny and the Dinosaur
 An I Can Read book this cute story of a museum dinosaur who comes to life for the day also makes an excellent resource for emergent readers to practice their skills.

Ankylosaurus Fights Back (Smithsonian's Prehistoric Pals)
The illustrations are lovely and the story is well written. In this story Anklysaurus uses his tail to fend off a carnivore - but spends most of his time eating --- and farting much to the delight of my 4 year old son. It seems the plants Anklyosaurus ate produce a lot of wind.

In addition to the story, brief facts on this type of dinosaur are included. I would be point out that this series has been printed in more than one format. There is a hardback version, as well as a large paperback book with a beautiful pull out poster - or a very small miniature paper back book - perhaps 4" tall. We ended up with the small version but it is still well loved. Some even include soft toys and cd-roms. Read carefully to be sure you get the edition you want.

Parasaurolophus Escapes [With Tear-Out Poster]
 This book is also from Smithsonian's prehistoric Pals series, and I would note that there are several other books available including ones about Velocoraptor, Spinosaurus, Mosasurus, Iguanadon and Pteranodon. We bought the larger paperback edition of this book - which included a lovely pull out poster. The story is simple, but fun and the illustrations are lovely. I would recommend for ages 2 -5.

Mungo and the Dinosaur Island - Timothy Knapman

'Mungo and the Dinosaur Island' combines dinosaurs, hunters which reminded us of pirates, and plenty of adventure, but it all begins in a library. I liked this. I liked the fact that books could be seen as a doorway to adventure. Mungo chooses a book called the Lost Island, and settles down to read it later that night in bed. The story begins with some terrible pirates who plan to capture a rare butterfly to sell. But soon they find more unusual animals to exploit - Dinosaurs. A few are very large, but most are tiny ( my son didn't think any of this because we've already used the idea that animals could become smaller with each generation in a small environment like an island). Thankfully Stegosaurus may be tiny, but he is brave. He is all set to save the day when disaster strikes. Mungo turns the page too soon, and Stegosaurus hasn't had a chance to chase the hunters away. There is only one chance left for the poor captured dinosaurs. Mungo must go into the book with Stegosaurus and help him defeat the evil villains.

The first thing to strike me with this book was the illustrations. They are absolutely brilliant. The cover art is nice, but it doesn't do justice to the rest of the book. Everything is so bright and colourful, the expressions on the dinosaurs are perfect, and the illustrator has brought the story to life perfectly. The story itself is excellent as well. It is wonderful adventure, but never really frightening.

 My son says this book must get 5 stars as it is "the very best". He says the best part of all is the Stegosaurus biting the bad guys butt - something I imagine most young children would enjoy. He also loves the look on the Stegosauruses face when he screams "NOOOOOO!" and the look of surprise on the hunters face when he finds out what looks like a rock is something very different. I'd have given this five stars on illustrations alone, but combined with a wonderful story, this book really is a must have for any child who enjoys Dinosaurs.

Non Fiction:
Dinosaur's Day (DK Readers Level 1)

Dinosaur Dinners (DK Readers Level 2)
 This is listed as level 2 book for reading, but it is quite easy still with large text. I would recommend this for independent reading from age 6, but it is even better as fun story book for very children. I would recommend this as story book from age 1 with it's delightfully scary hungry dinosaurs looking at you. My four year old loves this one as well. This also explains the difference between herbivore and carnivore.

Project X: Dinosaur Safari
Project X is an exceptional series of leveled readers designed to get boys reading. This book is an easy to read informative book. It is not the most in depth, but for only 24 pages with a limited amount of easy to read text it packs in quite a lot of material. If this book sounds interesting - why not try my link below for  Oxford Owl under Home Education freebies. It contains the entire book online so you can try it for yourself. This book is meant to be for ages 7-8, but my son read this at age 6 and my youngest has used it as a storybook since age 2.

Dinosaur Encyclopedia (First Reference)
DK's usual high quality text and illustration for younger readers. This is a favourite with my four year old.

Also recommended:
Dinosaur (Eye Wonder)
National Geographic Little Kids: First Big Book of Dinosaurs
Meet the Dinosaurs (DK Readers Pre-Level 1)
My Best Book of Dinosaurs

Ten Little Dinosaurs (Wiggle Eyes)
This is one of the best counting books we have, and easily doubles as bedtime story. What makes this book unique is the addition of two large googley eyes. These are weighted so that they will face up. When the book is closed the eyeballs face outwards as shown. As you open the over you can see the eyeballs turn around - and a bit of movement can make it appear as if the dinosaur is actually watching you. All of the subsequent pages have two holes for the eyeballs to peer through - or you can have a bit of fun and hold the book up to your face and make all sorts of dinosaur noises. Of course no one knows what dinosaurs sounded like - which leaves us free to make up our own sounds - everything from roars and growls to long drawn out conversations from the Saurolophus.

This book begins like the 10 little monkeys rhyme, but instead of monkeys we have dinosaurs, in this case, 10 little Pachycephalosaurus jumping on the bed. Pachycephalosaurus are the ones with a very thick dome shaped skull with wee spikes around it. When the inevitable accident occurs - the doctors says "No more boneheads bouncing on the bed.

As we count down from 10, each number has a different species. Rather than each page showing them jumping on the bed, the author has introduced some variety to the story with a number of different activities including 9 dinosaurs on one bike, playing in traffic and arguing with an umpire. Each set of pages has 4 rhyming lines and a nick name for the species pictured - often insulting like "big mouths" and "nut brains". The verses fit into the rhythm of the original 10 Little monkeys rhyme, giving this an immediate familiarity, and making it a very pleasant book to read or listen to. The dinosaurs featured in this book are as follows: Pachycephalosaurus, Stegosaurus, T Rex, Spinosaurus, Archaeopteryx , Ankylosaurus, Supersaurus, Chasmosaurus, Saurolophus and Triceratops. Of course Archaeopteryx is not really a dinosaur, but is a pterosaur, but this book isn't really meant to be a serious science book so I can almost overlook that one.

Dinosaur Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and An Alphabet of Dinosaurs by Peter Dodson
are both quite similar. Both books feature beautiful painted illustrations with a different dinosaur for each letter and both also contain detailed information for each dinosaur featured, meaning they can be enjoyed long after a child has learned their ABC's.. The Jerry Pallotta book hide a slight edge as far as information in my opinion, but teh Peter Dodson book came up trumps on illustration.  The book by Pallotta featured  a large bold upper and lower case letter for each page though an the Dodson book did not. In fact, as much as it goes against my nature to deface a book - I ended up writing in the letters myself in the Dodson book as I felt the purpose of an alphabet book was defeated by leaving them out.

Dinosaur ABC Colouring Book (Dover Coloring Books)
 I bought this when my 4 year old requested a dinosaur colouring book, thinking he could work on his ABC's while colouring in. When it arrived he insisted the pictures were to nice for him to colour as he might make mistakes - but we have just copied off pages for him to colour, paint or do other projects with.