Dinosaurs … they’re a never-ending source of fascination for children and adults alike!
Even the quietest of young children will often surprise us with their ability to pronounce the lengthiest of dinosaur names and prehistoric facts about the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic.
In fact, the only activity that encouraged my now 22-year-old son to take off his coat during his first weeks in preschool was playing with dinosaurs (he is now studying for a Ph.D. in Palaeontology at the University of Southampton and Natural History Museum in London!).
Here are 10 dinosaur movement activities that get children active and focused on their interests – why not be a Try-try-try-ceratops and give them a go?!
You may recognize some of these phrases: I’ve used the book ‘Dinosaur Roar’ by Paul and Henrietta Strickland for inspiration.
Supporting children’s learning with books will support them visually, increase their vocabulary and support them to become readers. (Source)
As well as using their bodies in different ways, it will provide great opportunities for children to develop skills linked to using our voices; knowledge and understanding of adverbs, verbs, and prepositions; opposites, and an acceptance of differences. (Source)
1. Dinosaur roar, dinosaur squeak
Explain how we can use our bodies to support our voices and mimic and reinforce the sounds.
For example, a dinosaur roar may involve children leaning forward, shaking their heads from side to side, and stretching their arms out in front.
Whereas a dinosaur squeak may involve a hunched-up stance, shoulders up towards their ears, arms and hands up to their chest, and knees bent.
2. Dinosaur fierce, dinosaur meek
This dinosaur description could involve children standing on their tiptoes, stretching out their bodies and arms up in the air as far as they will go.
Ask them to form a ‘fierce face’; emphasize the alliteration and encourage them to screw up their faces (using a mirror here, so that they can see themselves, would work a treat too!).
If they are meek, can they open their eyes wide, ‘stretch out’ their faces, and get close to the floor in a curled-up squatting position?
3. Dinosaur fast, dinosaur slow
This one probably speaks for itself, and children will more than likely be familiar with these terms and contribute their own ideas.
Try to scaffold their attempts into purposeful play by raising a green card to signal running fast, a red card to stop, and amber for running slowly.
Taking the activity outdoors, or where there is lots of room, would also help them to feel more at ease to take risks, change direction, chase their peers, etc.
4. Dinosaur above, dinosaur below
Use this as an opportunity to develop children’s understanding of prepositions, their spatial awareness and broaden their vocabulary.
For variation and to develop this further, you could also add more examples of prepositional language such as, under, in, at the side, etc.
Why not use props? Provide some large cardboard boxes, plants, stones, etc. so they can increase their spatial awareness, understanding of prepositions, and following instructions.
Can they describe where they are in relation to one of the props they have chosen to use?
5. Dinosaur weak, dinosaur strong
Act out being weak by modeling a lifeless body, with relaxed arms and ‘wobbly’ legs. Your head may be down, and your shoulders rolled forwards and slow strained movements.
By contrast, demonstrate what it means to be strong: show your arm muscles, a confident upright stance, head held high and powerful legs, and striding movements around the space.
Talk about healthy bodies and how important our muscles are, not only for strength but to keep us fit and active; they help us stand upright and perform movements.
Maybe encourage the children to lift an object and raise it above their heads (within a reasonable weight and remembering to keep them safe from avoidable accidents!).
6. Dinosaur short, or very, very long
This activity could link to their understanding of simple concepts and children could focus on using different parts of their bodies to model these ideas and opposites.
As an example, children could use their hands and create the smallest distance possible between them without touching, they could go on to use their arms to stretch out as wide as possible.
Could they do the same with their feet, their legs, their bodies, fingers, and toes? Can they ‘join up’ and do this with a partner?
7. Dinosaur fat, dinosaur tiny
Here’s one that you may or may not wish to include so I’ve not gone into detail.
Although it’s part of the book, you may not feel comfortable acting this out as it could be seen to mimic certain body types and reinforce certain words and phrases that you’re not comfortable using.
Choose what’s right for your setting and build in acceptance and positive connotations towards all these activities and words when you act them out.
8. Dinosaur clean and dinosaur slimy
If you are a slimy dinosaur, you may shake your arms, hands, legs, head, etc. to try to remove it.
Could you use ribbons to mimic the slime movements as well as demonstrate its properties by slipping and sliding around the floor?
This could also provide sensory opportunities using ‘real slime’; support children with action cards of the different activities and things you can do with this medium.
A clean dinosaur may be very proud and attend to themself: try mimicking combing their hair, scrubbing their nails, cleaning their teeth, and washing their face and bodies. Link these ideas to health and self-care.
9. Dinosaur sweet and dinosaur grumpy
A ‘sweet’ dinosaur may smile, wave (use alternate hands and arms and big and small movements), and be light on their feet- try walking on tiptoes and model using arms to balance.
As an opposite emotion, ask the children what it means to be grumpy or cross and mimic expressions and associated body language such as stamping our feet and marching using our arms swinging from side to side.
Use an opportunity to discuss our emotions and how we can regulate these and develop coping strategies.
10. Dinosaur spiky and dinosaur lumpy
Can children make spike shapes using their hands? Can they place these on various parts of their body?
Challenge them to name the part of the body they have chosen to ‘cover with spikes’! Can they clench their fists to make a lump shape?
Again, which parts of their body will be covered in ‘lumps’? Talk about textures and how they feel.
Could children use junk modelings material to make their own lumps and spikes?
Use these to support their dinosaur role-playing. Alternatively, for a mark-making activity, encourage children to make a series of zig-zag spike drawings and ‘lumpy bumps’ either on a big or small scale.
All the suggested activities could be enhanced further by using music to support and guide movement and feeling.
You could either find some audio clips that suit your chosen theme or children could use musical instruments to create their own beat and rhythm.
If technology is available children would love watching videos of their own ‘performances’ or looking at and discussing themselves and their peers in photos. These would be a great resource to share with parents too and for children’s assessment.
Above all, remember to create a culture in your setting where children feel confident to voice their own ideas and suggestions.
They will probably have some fantastic ideas (probably better than mine!) and will develop their confidence demonstrating these to their peers and the positive reinforcement that contributing and feeling valued can bring.
After all, they’re the dinosaur ‘experts’- they’ll be ‘dino-mite’!