Paleontology for Kids - Raah!
Encourage a Paleontologist in Training!
Shows like Dino Dan and Dinosaur Train are increasing the popularity of paleontology for kids. How do we know so much about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures when they lived so long ago? What is a paleontologist? How can you develop a child's interest in paleontology?
Lots of kids are fascinated by dinosaurs. Tap into this interest and you may have a paleontologist in training!
We'll find out what a paleontologist does, look at some fun paleontology-themed activities and gifts and highlight some excellent paleontology resources for learning more. Oh and don't miss the song about paleontology!
Best Paleontology for Kids Resources
- The Paleontology Portal
Educational paleontology resources. Great for kids who are serious about becoming a paleontologist. Includes interviews with real paleontologists and career guidance.
- National Park Service Junior Paleontologist Program
Lots of paleontology activities from the National Park Service. Complete age appropriate activities to become a Junior Paleontologist. There's a free booklet available online.
- Virtual Dino Dig
An interactive online dinosaur dig that shows you what paleontologists do on a field trip and when they get back to the lab. From the Smithsonian Department of Paleobiology.
What is a Paleontologist?
And what is paleontology?
When I'm big I want to be a paleontologist - a scientist who finds out what dinosaurs looked like.
What is a Paleontologist?
The above definition came from my son aged just 4. It's pretty much right. Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life including dinosaurs through fossil evidence and science. A Paleontologist studies paleontology.
Most paleontology is lab and academic work, but there's also field work which can offer adventures to far flung locations.
My son was playing with his Playmobil Triceratops set when he decided he wanted to become a paleontologist. It's a very cool set. You can hide the dinosaur skeleton bones then excavate them and assemble them into a skeleton. The volcano erupts impressively. And you can pretend to go back in time to see a Triceratops and baby.
Fun Paleontology Facts for Kids
Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning
One of the first paleontologists was a young girl called Mary Anning in Dorset, UK in the 1800s.
Mary hunted for fossils and sold them for money as part of the family business. As she grew older she became an expert on the prehistoric creatures that she found near Lyme Regis in an area now known as the Jurassic coast.
The book Stone Girl, Bone Girl:: The Story of Mary Anning tells the story of Mary Anning for children age 6 and up.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins
Paleontologists carry out research to learn more about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. An important part of this is creating models of dinosaurs.
A gentleman named Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was one of the first to create models of dinosaurs. He created life size models of dinosaurs in the 1850s based on the best scientific knowledge of the time. The Crystal Palace dinosaurs are still there today, and we're lucky enough to have visited them just outside London.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer is a beautifully illustrated and written book that tells the story of Hawkins and his dinosaurs. You can find out what happened when he went to America.
How Do We Know about Dinosaurs?; A Fossil Mystery (First Graphics: Science Mysteries)
We know about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures because of fossils.
A dinosaur fossil is actually rock in the shape of a dinosaur bone. Fossils are formed when minerals fill the tiny holes in bones and the bones dissolve in groundwater over time. If you've ever picked up a fossil you probably noticed that they are much heavier than bone.
No paleontologist has ever seen a real dinosaur. Instead they rely on fossil evidence and the scientific method. Knowledge of modern-day animals is very useful in understanding what dinosaurs were like.
Here Comes Science
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This a a great song and video by They Might be Giants from their Here Comes Science album and DVD for kids. I am a Paleontologist is by They Might Be Giants Bassist Danny Weinkauf, it's inspired by his kids' love of dinosaurs - his children feature in the song (source Here Comes Science - wikipedia.)
How do you become a Paleontologist? - Paleontologist Phillip Currie
Professional paleontologist Phillip Currie explains how he got interested in paleontology through a childhood book on dinosaur paleontology.
All About Dinosaurs
This is the book that Philip Currie mentions in the video above - it inspired him to become a palentologist. It's out of print but second hand copies are often available.
It's very interesting to see how much we have learned about dinosaurs since this book was written. My son has a dinosaur book from the 70s which we picked up at a school fair - he likes the idea that this was what was known about dinosaurs when his dad was a little boy. It helps him understand how paleontologists are always learning new things about dinosaurs.
See below for modern paleontology books for kids
Dinosaur Paleontology Activities for Kids
I've included a variety of paleontology activities for kids or all ages from preschoolers and little kids through to older kids who may be thinking about how to become a paleontologist.
Ask your kids to think about what color dinosaurs were. Get them to draw or paint a dinosaur picture, or color in a dinosaur coloring page if they're little.
Why did they choose those colors? How might paleontologists find out what color dinosaurs were?
This is a current area of inquiry for dinosaur paleontologists. Continue the What Color were Dinosaurs? Activity
Dinosaur Paleontology Activity: Dino Dig
A dino dig is a fun and educational activity for a classroom, homeschool, or just for fun for a child who loves dinosaurs.
The idea is to set up a dinosaur dig site and have the kids excavate dinosaur fossils and then assemble a skeleton, with lots of learning opportunities built in.
See: Planning a Classroom Dinosaur Dig for detailed guidance.
Online Dino Dig Games
There are lots of dino dig games online. The National Museum of Natural History - Virtual Dinosaur Dig is one of our favorites.
The interactive game takes you an a dinosaur paleontology field trip where you learn lots of dinosaur facts and get to excavate dinosaur bones.
Junior Paleontologist Program
National Park Service
The National Park Service has a Junior Paleontologist Program with a wonderful free printable booklet of paleontology activities for children age 5-12.
Download: Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet
The booklet is very well put together. It features activities for Trilobytes (Age 5+), Sauropods (Age 8+) and Sabre Tooth Cats (Age 10+).
- A printable board game that teaches kids the process of fossilization. Example square: "Organism stays at the surface and does not get buried quickly - LOSE A TURN"
- Graphical timeline where kids have to match plant and animal life to the right time period using the provided information.
- An activity that shows how the layers in rock correspond to the ages of the fossils found in them.
- Compare yourself to dinosaurs to get a feel for the size of different dinosaur species.
- Guess the modern relatives of prehistoric creatures.
This is a brilliant booklet that educates junior paleontologists while being lots of fun. Kids will learn science and biology, how paleontologists know so much about prehistoric life, observation skills and more.
The Magic School Bus: Back in Time with the Dinosaurs - Age 5 to 10
Homeschool or learning together resource for young paleontologists.
This is a fun kids palentontology set for children aged around 5 to 10. It includes lots of materials for hands-on learning activities and the educational resources to help you get the most from the experience.
Kids get to create a timeline, design a dinosaur diorama, build a wooden dinosaur replica (he looks like a T-Rex to me), make cast and mold fossils, mold clay dinosaur teeth and more.
There's a lot packed into this set making it good value for money. For kids at the younger end of the age range they will require help and supervision to get the most from the set. But if you have a dinosaur mad child like my older son (nearly 5) then it's amazing what they can learn when they're motivated.
Paleontology Learning Resources for Kids
Paleontology Books for Kids - Learn about fossils and dinosaurs
A small selection of high quality kids books on paleontology, dinosaurs and fossils. Build up a reference library for a dinosaur expert in training.
Dinosaur Days: Interactive Educational Resource
I can personally recommend the Dinosaur Days educational resource. I paid for my son to get access to this site (it's really not expensive) and have a copy of the resource on CD.
The resource includes lots of videos about different species of dinosaur, plus videos on relevant topics including one on paleontology. You also get activity worksheets and some games too. You can either use it directly on the website, or from the CD.
My son, nearly 5, really enjoyed this because he could drive the interface himself and choose what he wanted to learn about next. He can't read get (well he recognizes dinosaur!) so he'll get more from a lot of the activities as he gets older. I expect us to keep returning to Dinosaur Days.
(I have no relationship with Dinosaur Days, it's just a product we have enjoyed.)
Biology and Art in Paleontology
“In paleontology, I saw an irresistible combination of travel, adventure, art, biology and geology.” - Dr Paul Sereno, Paleontologist
Dinosaur Paleontology: Anatomy - 4D Vision Tyrannosaurus Rex Anatomy Model
Biology and anatomy are very important to paleontology. They help paleontologists reconstruct what dinosaurs looked like and how they would have moved and behaved.
Find out what dinosaurs looked like inside.
Dinosaur Paleontology: Art
Gregory S Paul
Art is another important skill for many paleontologists as a way to represent what dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures and plants would have looked like.
Gregory S Paul is a famous paleoartist and researcher who produces beautiful drawings of dinosaurs.
This Steosaurus photo sculpture is an example of his detailed work. (Available to buy.)
The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs (Princeton Field Guides)
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In Sept 2010 Gregory S Paul published this amazingly detailed guide to dinosaurs, it's a valuable scientific resource and a work of art.
Learn how to draw dinosaurs and maybe you can become a paleo-artisit.
How to Draw Dinosaurs for Kids
Do you want to learn how to draw dinosaurs? We've put together a great collection of resources so you can learn from the experts. Learning to draw dinosaurs...
Movie and TV Kid Paleontologists
Kid Paleontologists from TV Shows
We've found that there are some brilliant TV shows that help kids learn about paleontology and dinosaurs. Here are our current favorites:
- Alicia, Diego's sister is a Dinosaur Expert. This is a great option for the littlest kids and features a girl paleontologist.
- Buddy the T-Rex from Dinosaur Train likes to learn all about different kinds of dinosaur and he collects fossils. Great for preschool kids. Has a featured slot with Dr Scott the paleontogist.
Dinosaur Train - Facts, Toys, T-Shirts, DVDs
Dinosaur Train is a PBS Kids TV series made by the Henson Company. The series aims to entertain and educate children. There's a range of Dinosaur Train toys....
- Dino Dan sees dinosaurs everywhere he goes and loves to try to understand them. Dan Henderson is a paleontologist in training. This is a great show for kids age 4+ to learn about dinosaurs.
Dino Dan - Paleontologist in Training
Dino Dan is a brilliant kids TV show from Nick Jr. Are you looking for fun activities for a fan of the show? On this page you'll find lots of Dino Dan things...
Dr Scott from Dinosaur Train
Dr Scott D Sampson is a proper paleontologist. And he helps with research for the Dinosaur Train TV show. He also presents cool paleontology sections of the show like this one:
Paleontologist Toys and Role Play
Coleman Kids Archaeologist Kit
My son has this kit and loves wearing it for roleplay as a paleontologist, archaeologist or geologist depending on what he's interested in. He also uses the bag to store the extra tools he has picked up from dino dig kits.
Paleontologist Costume and Role Play
Dress up as a paleontologist and go on a field trip
Kids can have great fun dressing up as a paleontologist and going on a fossil dig in the sandpit. Makes a great Halloween costume for a paleontologist in training too!
My son loves to dress up as a paleontologist and archeologist and go digging in the garden or looking for fossils when we're out on a walk.
Paleontologist Costumes for Kids
A guide to putting together a paleontologist costume for kids with role play accessories. Lots of the ideas work for archaeologist and geologist costumes too...
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Paleontology for Kids