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A place for us to share our favorite party tidbits and a place for you to gather great ideas!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dino Dig!

Wow, what a blast! A couple of weekends ago we hosted a Dino Dig for 15 children from a local Montessori School. Thankfully it didn't rain on us! The kids had a great time making fossils, erupting a volcano, digging for dinosaur "bones," assembling the dinosaur skeletons and smashing open geodes. This is a great summer party and is a fun one to get the kids involved with the party prep (think gooey paper mache volcano building!). Set up in your backyard or at the park and prepare to have a roaring good time!

Here are the dino details:
Each child was given a dino hat and satchel (satchels were hand-made by one of the moms--thank you Angela!). The satchels were filled with brushes, fossil books, dino trading cards and a muslin bag to take their geode home in. By the end of the day, the satchels also stored each child's fossil and geode. They all loved wearing their hats and carting around their goodies in their bags! Made for very cute photos too.

The yard was set up with different areas for the kids to explore, making it easy for everyone to find something that interested them and spread the little ones out a bit too. It was helpful to have an adult at each of the areas to assist the kids.

1. The Dig Site:
We prepared a couple of raised planters for the dig by filling them with sand and burying the "bones." The kids could have spent hours just digging! But they delighted in discovering the buried bones and hauling them over from the dig site to the site designated for constructing the skeletons. We labeled each dig site and constructing site with matching numbers since we had two different skeletons we were un-earthing. We found muslin drop-cloths intended for painting to work perfectly as our constructing sites, particularly since the back is lined and waterproof. Those kids that were interested, sat and diligently worked on putting the dinosaur skeletons together. Others were off to erupt the volcano or make a fossil!

2. Fossil Making:
There are a variety of ways you can have kids make fossils. You can have the kids make impressions in clay and then fill with plaster of paris, or, more simply, you can mix up a dough from any number of recipes and have the kids make impressions in the dough and bake or leave it to dry. We used a simple coffee ground fossil recipe: 1 cup used coffee grounds (visit Starbucks to get a giant bag of used coffee grounds for composting), 1/2 cup cold coffee, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt. Mix thoroughly and knead together. We found that this dough could be made up ahead of time and covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to use it. To make the fossils, grab a lump of the dough, flatten with your hands and then use any of a variety of objects to make your impression. We had on hand shells, leaves, and large dino feet for tracks. Baking these fossils for 20 minutes or so helped to solidify them so they would be ready for the kids to take home.

3. Erupting Volcano:
Get into your grade-school science fair frame of mind and have at making a paper mache volcano! This is a fun thing to get the kids involved in, in anticipation of the party. Paint your volcano to your liking. On the day of the party prepare enough small containers for each child with the dry ingredients (baking soda) and separate containers with the liquid ingredients (vinegar, a few drops of liquid soap and red food coloring) to make your volcano bubble and fizz! The kids had a blast taking turns making the volcano erupt. I would suggest having extra ingredients on hand to fine-tune your eruptions and to allow for extra me, the kids will want to do this more than once!

4. Geode Smashing:
This is a lot of fun, and depending on the ages of the children at the party, can be done by the adults, or with help from the kids. Geodes are geological rock formations which occur in certain volcanic rocks. Geodes are essentially rock cavities with internal crystal formations. Safety goggles are a must for this activity! Placing the geode in a sturdy plastic bag allows the kids to see what is happening to their geode while containing the small fragments. Again, having extras on hand is a good idea, while our boxes of geodes claim that 90% have crystals inside, you don't want one poor child to be left holding the dud! We found that taping the bag to a hard surface first, prevents it from flying off when it gets whacked. Grab a hammer, aim for the center of the geode and have at it! The kids were beyond excited to see what their geodes contained!

5. A Few Extras:
Have a table set up with dinoasur coloring sheets and an area for the kids to sit and look through dinosaur books. If you are lucky enough to have a few actual fossils, set those out by the books as well. A few extra "down-time" activites are helpful to have at any kid party! Hang dinosaur cutouts from the trees, draw chalk dino footprints leading up to your party site and maybe set up an easel with a listing of all the activites at the dino dig.

6. Lunch for the Little Paleontologists:
Sandwiches cut out in dino shapes, nest of velociraptor eggs (lined a small cup with pretzel "twigs" and filled with grapes for the velociraptor eggs), apple-osaurus juice, dino on a lava cake...have fun with the food. Serve in boxes or on dinosaur plates.

Have a blast and let us know how it turns out! Tell us if you have any other fabulous dino dig party ideas; we will post the top ten ideas and our favorite will receive a box of geodes and a dino hat! Be sure to include your email address so we can contact the winner.