As you’re talking to your preschoolers about dinosaurs, it’s great to talk about what they might have looked like. No one was around to see them, so no one knows for sure, but paleontologists have used some clues to help them make some really good guesses. Some “mummified” dinosaur remains show dinosaurs with scales. That would make sense since they are considered reptiles! (The name brontosaurus actually means “thunder lizard”, just a tid-bit kids love to hear.) Here’s a great activity to explore the scaly nature of dinosaur skin while also building creativity and motor skills.
Start this one out with a discussion about dinosaur’s skin. I have used the book Dino Pets, by Lynn Plourde to introduce this idea, since it does a great job of illustrating and comparing the many characteristics of dinosaurs. I’ve also used samples of leather (or imitation leather, it may be easier to come by) for the children to feel the bumpy, scaly texture. Then, using a dinosaur outline as your base, (I found these dinosaur outlines online), have the children rip colored paper into small pieces and glue them on the dinosaur to represent the dinosaur scales. (It may be easiest just to cover the dinosaur with your glue stick before tearing.) Don’t be tempted to cut the paper for them! The tearing action utilizes the pincer grasp and builds fine motor strength and control. These are all skills children need to develop in order to have the physical ability to write. Of course, since we have no way to be sure what colors the dinosaurs were, the children can use their imaginations and implement any colors they like. Challenge their creativity and talk to them about their ideas as they make their own colorful dinosaurs. Where would such a colorful dinosaur live? What is it called? What does it eat?
Now inevitably, some children will be so enamoured with this ripping and gluing action that they will cover their papers with these colorful scales and completely obscure the dinosaur outline. That’s OK! Remember the objective of this activity is not to create a cute dinosaur. The objective is to learn about the science concept of scales as a dinosaur characteristic, and to build creativity and fine motor strength. Those things can be done whether you have an obvious dinosaur outline or not. Enjoy creating these colorful, scaly creatures together!
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