Like the Colors Science Storytime, this was limited to 18 children ages 3 to 5, and they were required to have an adult with them. It was 45 minutes (our usual storytimes are 30).
Opening Song: “I Am Here & You Are Here” by Peter & Ellen Allard (on Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3)
Story: How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge. We always think about dinosaurs as being huge, but this engaging nonfiction book for preschoolers gives comparisons of dinosaurs large and small to modern-day objects. It also names lots of dinos, which is always fun. I didn’t read every word, and there was definitely a lot of active discussion during the reading. When I started, I asked the kids how big dinosaurs were and whether any of them were bigger than a dinosaur. No one thought they were bigger than a dinosaur, so they were very excited to find out about all of the dinos that are smaller than they are.
Song: “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner on Waddaya Think of That? One of my staff members kindly made a huge pile of foam dinosaur feet for the kids to use while stomping around to this fun song. I would have had the kids make them as part of the program, but there’s just so much fun stuff to do, we didn’t have time to do all of it! I handed them out right before the song and then let them take their dino feet home. Some of the feet did tear when the kids tried to put them on over their shoes, so it was nice to have some extras.
The story and song took about 15 minutes. It was harder to introduce the activities this time because the kids wanted to get started right away as soon as they saw the first one! Most families stayed for the full program time – about 40-45 minutes. It turned out to be a good range of activities. Some spent 5 minutes or so at each station, while others hurried through most of the stations but spent 20 minutes with play dough or the dinosaur dig.
Activity #1 (table): Dinosaur dig. One the first table, there were two large containers of sand, each with 24 small plastic dinosaurs, 4 brushes, and 4 sifters. The dino dig kits came from Lakeshore Learning. (Containers and sand not included.) No particular comments on this one – it was pretty much exactly as advertised. The kids enjoyed it for a few minutes and made only minor messes.
Activity #2 (table): Play dough. Use excavated dinos from table #1 to stamp dino “fossils” in play dough or make dinos. I considered having them create fossils in the dough using toothpicks or q-tips, but I just didn’t need any more options. This was a few kids’ favorite table. I was planning a mix of activities so that each kid would find many different things to do, but the play dough table worked out as a nice reminder that the mix of activities also helps make sure that each child finds one thing that really appeals to him or her. My favorite play dough creation was this one on the left – he made a series of dinos in ascending size order, just like in the book.
Activity #3 (table): Erupting volcanoes. Because somehow we associate volcanoes with dinosaurs and it’s just so fun to do! I chose to pre-make the volcanos on sturdy paper plates so the kids could just focus on the baking soda-vinegar reaction and not fuss with the clay. It took under 5 minutes each to wrap a mini water bottle in half a pack of Model Magic. I used the “natural” colors and decided not to mess around with painting them. We used measuring cups with spouts to pour about half a cup of vinegar (dyed red) into each mini water bottle, which filled it about halfway. One half teaspoon of baking soda was just about the right amount to make an impressive (but not totally messy) eruption. Each child could do the experiment about 4 times (total of about 2 teaspoons) before the fizzing wasn’t enough to go over the top of the volcano. At that point, I asked them to pour the reacted vinegar off into the sink and leave it for someone else. This was, not surprisingly, very popular at the beginning, but families were good about doing it once and then leaving it for someone else, so it cleared out by the end.
Activity #4 (back bench): Dinosaur sticker scenes. I purchased these from Oriental Trading. Each child got an 8.5″ x 11″ scene and a sticker sheet. I chose to do this one on the back bench since it’s fairly clean and the kids could do it standing up. This allowed me to sneak in one extra table activity. This was probably nobody’s first choice, but it was a nice calm break from some of the more frenetic activity. One little girl carefully placed all of her stickers to tell a story and then told me all about it. It was fun to hear which dinosaurs were chasing or hiding from which others.
Activity #5 (floor): Put out a long sheet of paper pre-marked with the length of certain dinosaurs. Let the kids “measure up” to the dinosaurs. Have out tape measures and yard sticks too, just for general measuring fun. I had planned to leave a few dinosaur encyclopedias out for reference so they could look up some of these less common dinosaurs if they were interested, but then totally forgot.
Making this took longer than I thought it would. I wanted to use the dinosaurs from How Big Were Dinosaurs?, but most of them were too long for our room, which has about 22′ of usable floor space. So I went to Scholastic Dinosaurs A to Z by Don Lessem and looked up a ton of dinosaurs. I tried for approximately one dinosaur per foot. See below for all the dirty details. (I wanted to include some pictures, but it was hard to get a good shot – the roll was too long.) It took two of us about half an hour to measure and draw out all the lines. It didn’t help that our paper roll was 4′ wide, so we couldn’t just use a yardstick to draw a line all the way across the paper. I was very happy with the end result though. Some of the kids traced their bodies on the sheet, others measured themselves and wrote their names, and at least one guessed the heights of every member of her family and added them to the sheet! Again, I heard kids talking about which dinosaurs they were bigger than, which was a fun way to visually reinforce the information from the book.