Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Appearing Dinosaurs (and a little something extra)

Today's project had a lot of potential. A LOT. When I saw the tutorial over at this website a couple weeks ago, I was like, "Yes! This is so, so cool. Done." And it is. But I think there are a few tips which we did not follow, but from which you can certainly benefit. And if you listen to this advice, I really do think this project is way cool. 


blank, white paper (we used computer paper)
print outs of dinosaur skeletons
white crayons or oil pastels
watercolor paints and paint brushes


This is a crayon resist project. You may have done this before with your kids. It's a pretty neat technique; basically, you let the kids draw a picture with crayons and then they paint over their picture with paints. We used watercolors today. Since the crayons are waxy, they resist the paint (giving the technique its name), and the drawings will come through. 

So, step one (I completed this step for my kids since they're so young. Older children, maybe age 7 and up, could complete this step on their own): trace a dinosaur skeleton onto your white paper using the print outs as a guide. 

I used a white crayon for this step, and while it worked, I would suggest going for a white oil pastel instead. My crayon did resist the paint some, but in the end, it was a little difficult to see the skeletons. I wasn't sure if it was because of the crayon or the amount of water Daniel used, but just to be on the safe side, we'll be using pastels for projects like this in the future. 

I completed this step at 10:00 last night after a very long day and I was tired. So, sadly, I didn't get any pictures for you. Bad blogger. 

Step two: give the "blank" pieces of paper to the kids along with the paints and let them loose! It was so much fun to hear the excitement in their voice when the surprise began to show up :)

At first I was really happy with how well they were turning out.

Then, things went south. I'm wondering if a lot of it had to do with how much water the kids used? Daniel definitely went back to the water over and over again (more than he needed to), and sometimes skipped the paint entirely and just brushed water onto his paper. We're working on that. But the end result was a massive puddle with a little washed out paint right in the middle of his picture. And while it dried in relatively little time, it also seemed to make the skeleton a lot less vivid.

Daniel, age 3

See what I mean? You can kind of see it, but not well. 

I'd love to try this project again with oil pastels and with a little more adult supervision. If I do, I'll post an update.

The good news, though, is that the kids had fun. It didn't matter to them that the dinosaur skeletons were a little washed out. Kids love putting paint on paper, and they're not very picky about the little things ;)

Update! I let Natalie try this project after she came home from school and cautioned her against using too much water. I told her to get her brush wet, but only just, and to really load it up with color (most of the colors were still wet from this morning). The result? MUCH better!

Natalie, age 4

So, I guess white crayon actually does work pretty well. The trick is to not transfer too much water to your paper...and to take the art away from the child before it becomes a wet puddle!

Okay. Since our project this week was pretty basic, and since I have another cool activity that I wanted to post, I'm combining them. Two birds with one stone, man. I'm all about some efficiency. 

Thursday's Dino Dig

One of the things I had planned for this week (the one thing I knew I wanted us to do when I planned this week back in mid-August), was a Dino Dig. When I happened to mention it to Daniel, he loved the idea and has been asking me about it ever since. So he was excited when I told him that the day had finally come.

All week, we've been reading dinosaur books, and one that I mentioned a couple days ago, "Digging Up Dinosaurs", by Aliki, has been particularly helpful. We brought that book as well as another non-fiction book with us to the park to use as a reference guide during the dig.


Non-fiction dinosaur books
Dino Dig journal page (found at Adventures in Mommydom) and clipboard
dry pasta
digging tools (we used a small paint brush, a bottle brush, and a cheese spreader)
toy dinosaurs for small world play afterwards


When we got to the playground, I sent Daniel off to play while I set up the dig. He did come back after a few minutes. I kept encouraging him to go play some more because I didn't want him to watch me set it up - I was afraid he'd be less excited to dig up the dinosaur bones if he watched me put them in the ground. Turns out, that didn't matter at all. Phew!

I used one of the books to help me recreate the dinosaur skeletons using bits of pasta.

I had a lot of fun with this part!

I did forget to give poor T-Rex a tail. Oh well. Maybe, I thought later, he lost it in a fight. And that's how he died.

After I recreated the skeletons, I covered them up with a bit of sand and pine needles. Then I sat down with Daniel and we reviewed a few things. We looked at pictures of the tools that are used to excavate the fossils and I showed Daniel his tools. We looked at pictures of workers brushing the sand away and I reminded him that he would need to be very gentle. And we practiced brushing the sand away from a buried stick. After that, I led him over to the dig site.

As soon as he saw the first "bone," he got really excited. And right to work.

He brushed and dug. I encouraged him to used his hands, too, but he preferred that paint brush.

We kept a book open in front of him so that he could identify the skeletons. Amazingly, he chose the right one. It really was amazing. First of all, they were made out of pasta. And secondly, as soon as he started digging, the bones went everywhere. I think it was more of a lucky guess than a scientific identification.

After the dig, I gave him his journal page to complete. I read each section to him and he drew the pictures:

And then it was time to play!

But really, it was all play. At dinner last night, he declared that his favorite part of the day was doing his school stuff. You know that made me happy :)

When the kids are a little older, we'll revisit dinosaurs and if we do another dig, I'll probably invest in some small, model dinosaur skeletons. Another mom was telling me about a company that makes them. But for our purposes here, the dry pasta was perfect. I'm not sure that it was any less real for him, and we weren't worried about identifying bones or anything that specific. 

All in all, total success! Yes! I love it when that happens!

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  1. I love these ideas! Thanks so much for sharing. I've pinned this post so I can remember these activities for when we do our Dinosaur unit in the Spring. Feel free to check out our activities at

    1. Cool - thanks for reading, and I hope these ideas come in handy for you! I will def stop by and chek out what you guys are doing :)


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