Sunday, November 9, 2008


Desert Mural:

Use some of the free, online coloring pages listed below to create your own desert mural for your child to color or paint.

Desert Coloring Pages:
Desert animal information and coloring pages
Desert animal coloring pages from (scroll partway down page)
Realistic desert animals and plants to color
Friendly Lizard coloring page
Coloring page: Roadrunner catching a snake (cartoonish)
Rattlensake coloring page (realistic)
"Color" a desert online

Desert Diorama:
You can print out a diorama background, and then all of the plants and animals too, for your kids to assemble! Pretty cool -- and free!

Your Own Indoor Desert:

-- Fill a baking pan with sandbox sand or craft sand. If your child has a large collection of plastic animals (as my daughter does), help her find the desert animals and put them in the pan. Or, buy a couple of desert animals just for the occasion (a splurge, I know, but some kids play with animals a LOT, and then it's worth it). I'm not too strict about who "lives" in the desert after the first few minutes (our desert was soon inhabited, for example, by a Saint Bernard puppy).

Play-Doh Cactuses:

We just kind of thought this up as we were playing, and it was fun! Help your child make cactuses out of green play-doh, and then let her stick in toothpicks for the "spines." Talk about why some plants have spines as a defense mechanism. (Would your child want to eat something with spines? No way! Unless your child is like my infant son, who would probably try to eat that play-doh cactus anyway!)

Sand Art:

Show your child how to drizzle glue on paper, cover with sand, and then lift up the paper and tap the sand off to reveal "sand writing." Nora liked seeing her name written in sand.
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Thursday, July 31, 2008


Train Cars activity:

You can print out fun, realistic train pictures online and arrange them to form a train. We put little construction paper squares in the boxcar, for "cargo"; black "coal" sequins in the hopper car; and little people cut from the newspaper in the passenger car. You could also have fun and make a circus train with pictures of all sorts of animals!


Engine template
Another engine template
Hopper car template
Tank car template

Caboose template

Crane template

Save some small cardboard boxes, let your child paint them, and then have him or her glue or tape on black construction paper wheels. Toys can enjoy a wild ride.

An old-fashioned train, "The Rocket"
Train crossing a bridge
Waiting for the train
Flag signal
Steam train coloring page
Kids and dog on a train
Another train on a bridge
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Wooden boats, planes and cars to paint, available at craft stores like Michael's or from Oriental Trading Company for about a dollar apiece:

We used this build-your-own sailboat kit. We also painted a glider and "flew" it around the house. (Well, it sort of fell dramatically and slowly, but that was good enough for us.)
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Friday, June 20, 2008


No-Cook Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
Food coloring

Add food coloring to the water and mix the salt, flour, and colored water together, kneading to form a ball. (if too sticky, add a little extra salt and flour.)

Play Dough Recipe 2

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 tsp. cream of tartar
a few drops food coloring

Combine ingredients. Heat and stir until mixture forms a soft ball. Put mixture on wax paper until cool. Knead slightly to eliminate grainy texture. Store in tightly covered container. Recipe can be doubled.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

DINOSAUR THEME: Dinosaur Crafts for Older Kids

There are some cool, more involved crafts here for older kids -- like making a pterodactyl out of a milk carton. Older kids could work on these for a couple of days while younger kids with shorter attention spans completed a couple of easier activities. The younger kids would really like seeing the older kids' finished products!

Dinosaur Feet activity

This is a fun and easy craft for kids. Better yet, they can actively play with their craft when they're finished!

Materials: shoe boxes, paint or spray paint, glue or glue gun, newspaper for stuffing, white paper (for claws), duct tape

1. Cut a hole in each shoebox just big enough for your child's foot to fit into.

2. have your child put foot inside box. Stuff newspaper around child's foot, leaving enough room for him/her to get foot back in again later. Tape the box closed with duct tape.

3. Paint/ spray paint boxes.

4. Cut "claws" from white paper or fun foam, and glue to the top front edge of the box.

Your kids can have a race in their dinosaur feet!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dinosaur Mural

On the first day of any unit, I set up a mural for Nora to color and paint. It's just a fun activity, and also serves as a good visual intro to the topic. To make murals, I just print out coloring pages from various web sites -- they are free, and since they're just outlines, won't take a huge toll on your printer cartridge. I've listed some links to dinosaur coloring pages below.

I included a foam "volcano" and some trees for scenery.

Michael's Crafts store also had a set in their dollar bin where you could buy a plastic volcano and 6 little plastic dinosaurs. Yep, only a buck, and Nora still plays with those little things. She liked to move them all around the mural and have them "play" with the larger paper dinosaurs.

At Michael's, you can also get thin little basla wood cutouts of dinosaurs. They are about a dollar apiece. They're fun to paint. Later, you could fill a small container (like a baking pan) with sand and these will stand up in them -- all the more fun because your child painted them herself and essentially made her own toys.<

Dinosaur Coloring Pages

You can use these as you would any coloring page, or print a bunch, cut them out, and arrange them as a mural, as I did (above). Kids love to color dinosaurs!

Dinosaur Coloring Book

Ivy's Dinosaur Coloring Pages

Dinosaur Coloring Book pages

Karen's Whimsy (cool, realistic dino coloring pages; click link on bottom of first page for more)

Dino Coloring Pages at

Parasaurolophus used the hollow "horn" on the top of its head to make noise -- the way an elephant uses its trunk to trumpet. Do your kids have instruments in the home? Trombones, in particular, make noise the same way.

Stegosaurus coloring page

T-Rex coloring page

Dino Art Project


Materials: cardstock
stegosaurus template: Stegosaurus Printable Coloring Page
green, yellow, or brown construction paper
paint, markers, or crayons
googly eyes

Use a stegosaurus template (or simply cut out a stegosaurus from a coloring page that you print off the internet). Heavier paper or cardstock always works best. Cut out a dozen or so yellow, green, or brown triangles from construction paper.

Your child can paint or color in the dinosaur, then glue the triangles on as "plates" along its back and tail. Attach googly eyes last of all, for fun. You can punch a hole in the top, put a string through it, and hang it to display it; or just tape it on the wall.


You can make dinosaur "eggs" out of Play-Doh for your child to play with, or if you're really artistic, make some dinosaurs themselves (older kids can do this too). My daughter enjoys using her little brother's training fork (we call it a "spork" -- it's like a plastic spoon with grooves, for kids who are just learning to feed themselves) to make "dinosaur tracks" in Play-Doh, and then she asks me to make a bunch of dinosaur eggs, and she loves to arrange them along the tracks. Just one of those quirks.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dinosaur Stamp Activity

Playing with stamps can be a great way for kids to familiarize themelves with how different dinosaurs look. You can talk with your kids about why different dinosaurs have pointy teeth and claws; why others have paddlelike feet and what this might tell you about where they live; etc.

Other ideas:
Play a little game where you have drawn (or printed from the internet) different dinosaur "habitats" (a swamp, a deep lake, a tree-filled forest). They can stamp the dinosaurs where they think they might live. (Best for slightly older preschoolers who can understand this concept.)

Let them stamp the dinosaurs, then color or paint them in.

If the stamps have deep enough grooves, they can stamp them into Play-Doh to make "fossils."

Some stamps available from Oriental Trading (

Some Great Dinosaur Books for Preschoolers

Hatching Dinosaur Egg

This hatching dinosaur egg from Oriental Trading Company was a fun little part of the theme week. You submerge the egg in water and in 48 hours, it will hatch, revealing a squishy little baby dinosaur. My daughter loved getting the egg in the mail and waiting for it to hatch (although 48 hrs. is a long time for a 2-year-old -- I had to "assist" the egg's progress with a fork when she wasn't looking). And our new neighbor stopped by unexpectedly -- I didn't even think until later that he must have wondered what the heck this egg floating in a martini-like-glass on our countertop. Maybe he thinks we have exotic taste in food....

Dinosaur Theme Booklist for Preschoolers

Visit this page for a list of great dinosaur books for preschoolers:

Dinosaur Theme Booklist for Preschoolers

Includes links directly to Amazon to purchase books -- or just bring the list to your local library.