7 Dinosaur-Themed STEAM Activities For Preschool Lesson Planning

A top priority for early childhood educators like yourself is incorporating lesson themes that focus on children's interests while facilitating their cognitive, social, and physical development. Dinosaurs are a perennial classroom favorite, loved by children for generations. Children love to roar, stomp, and run like these prehistoric creatures. They love to read stories about dinosaur adventures and explore fossils and dinosaur bones like paleontologists in the field. 

The dinosaur-themed activities in this article are perfect for preschool classrooms. They will help children improve their communication and critical thinking skills while supporting their understanding of key educational concepts. To make these activities easier to implement in your classroom, included is a list of needed materials and provide enrichment opportunities to help you give children the best educational experiences possible. 

 

How does Kaplan ensure these activities are age-appropriate and support the educational needs of children ages 3 to 6 years old? 

As a leader in early childhood education for more than 50 years, we understand the importance of classroom activities that are founded on research and support educational best practices. 

All of the activities in this article are inspired by the Gryphon House books, STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers, Simple STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6, and the pre-K curriculum, Connect4Learning. We also categorize these activities by classroom learning center to make your job of lesson planning quick and easy!

Dinosaur-themed art activities for your preschool classroom:

An image of a loose parts tray containing natural materials and a small chalkboard with the words, "What might you use to build your very own dinosaur?" printed on it.

1. Dinosaur Design

Before starting this activity, read a book about dinosaurs, such as Meet the Dinosaurs by DK Publishing or Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins, with your class. Place the book in your art center and encourage children to create their own dinosaur species using clay and loose parts. The book is there to help children reference the types of teeth, claws, horns, or skin coverings dinosaurs typically have. Still, you should encourage children to use their imaginations when creating their dinosaur species. Create opportunities for meaningful conversation and creative thinking by asking the children these questions while they are designing their dinosaurs: 

  • How might you make your dinosaur taller or wider?
  • What materials might you add to make your dinosaur's skin feel bumpy?
  • You gave your dinosaur sharp teeth; what food do you think they like to eat?
  • Does your dinosaur live on land or in the water? 
  • How might your dinosaur move around? Does it walk on four legs? Does it walk on two legs? Does it swim with flippers?

Once this activity is complete, display the dinosaurs around the classroom. Have the children compare and talk about the different species they see. 

Materials:

  • Clay or playdough 
  • Rolling pins for texture
  • Feathers
  • Beads or small stones
  • Cut up construction paper in various colors
  • Paper to display dinosaur names
  • Markers or crayons
  • Pencils

Ways to enrich this activity:

Incorporate early literacy elements by asking the children to give their dinosaur a name and write it on a piece of paper to place beside their display. Children learning to write and spell can practice making marks and stringing together letters as they write the name. Every mark they make improves fine motor movements and letter recognition skills.

What inspired this activity?

The inspiration for this activity came from the book, Simple STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6. It also includes art center activities such as dance painting, watercolor butterflies, and suncatcher creation. 

An image of a dinosaur toy casting a shadow on a blank sheet of paper.
2. Shadow Portraits

This activity is a great art activity that also introduces children to the concept of light, time, and shadows. Give each child a dinosaur toy, a piece of paper, and something to draw with, then take them outdoors to a safe, sunny spot where they have plenty of room to spread out and work. Have children place their dinosaur toy on a sheet of paper and trace the shadow it creates. While observing the shadows, ask the children thought-provoking questions like:

  • What might make the shadow bigger or smaller? 
  • Where do you think shadows come from? 
  • What might happen when you rotate the toy? 
  • What might happen to the shadow on a cloudy day?

The next step is to have children trace the outline of their dinosaur shadows and talk amongst themselves about the similarities and differences they see. Go outside at different times throughout the day to create several shadow portraits that the children can observe and compare. 

Hang the shadow portraits in your classroom to create an "art gallery" to inspire further communication between children and their parents/caregivers at the end of the day. 

Materials:

Ways to enrich this activity:

Ask children to describe their shadow portrait and write their description on the front of the paper. An example of a portrait description could be "T-Rex at Noon" or "Tall Dinosaur on a Cloudy Day." This enrichment opportunity encourages using descriptive language and helps children strengthen their fine motor movements and writing skills.

What inspired this activity?

The inspiration for this activity came from the book, Simple STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6. It also includes art center activities such as dance painting, watercolor butterflies, and suncatcher creation.

Dinosaur-themed sensory activities for your preschool classroom:

An image of two children playing with the Magnetic Matching Fossils Set while sitting in the sand on an early childhood playground.
3. Fossil Hunters

This activity requires a sand table or sensory bin. Place fossil or bone-shaped toys in the sand table and cover them entirely with sand. Have groups of 2-3 children work together using excavation tools such as a paintbrush or Q-tip to uncover the hidden fossils. Once the children uncover a fossil, encourage them to observe it and use their tactile senses to guess what animal or plant it might have come from. 

Materials:

Ways to enrich this activity:

Have the children create fossils by stamping the uncovered pieces in clay or Play-Doh. You can also take the children outdoors and encourage them to find natural materials for their fossil creation project. Let the fossils dry, and then use them in the sand table to add new objects for the children to explore. 

This activity could also be a precursor to a dinosaur engineering activity. After the children uncover the hidden bone-shaped toys in the sand table, encourage them to build a dinosaur skeleton with the pieces. The children can display their dinosaur skeletons in a "classroom museum" and write a short sentence detailing their creation using their early literacy skills.  

What inspired this activity?

This activity was inspired by the book STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers. This book also includes activities about scientific tools, observations, and the human body.

Dinosaur-themed dramatic play activities for your preschool classroom:

An image of the Dino Diner activity in action which features a hand-written menu and sign that says, "What might you feed a T-Rex from the menu?"
4. Dino Diner

Start by reading the book How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Have a conversation with children about the differences between omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores, including the types of food dinosaurs would eat based on the kind of teeth they have. Encourage children to think about their own teeth and what types of food they eat. 

Lead small groups of children (4 or less) through this activity: one is a chef, one is a member of the wait staff, and the others are customers. Place several dinosaur toys in baskets with the labels herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. When the customers arrive at the Dino Diner, they must choose a dinosaur toy that represents the dinosaur they will pretend to be while enjoying their meal. The wait staff will lead the customers to the table and hand them a menu. 

On the menu, which you can create by hand, list food items under three categories: herbivore meals, carnivore meals, and omnivore meals. Herbivore meals can include fruits and vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, and apples. Carnivore meals can include meat products such as chicken, beef, or fish. Omnivore meals can include a mixture of meats, fruits, and vegetables. 

The customers will place their order, choosing meals that match the dinosaur toy they chose when entering the Dino Diner. The wait staff will deliver the order to the chef, who will prepare the meals by sorting food items, pretending to cook the items, and arranging the prepared meals on plates for each customer. The wait staff will deliver the food to the table, and the customers will pay for their meal with play money once they finish eating. Let the children take turns playing each role.  

This activity helps children learn to play cooperatively, make comparisons, use one-to-one correspondence, sort objects, solve problems, count money, and more. 

Materials:

Ways to enrich in this activity:

A great way to enrich this activity is by incorporating early literacy concepts while children play. Children can practice writing skills by creating a hand-written menu and taking customer meal orders. They can practice early reading skills by reading from the menu and reading customer orders before cooking meals. As the children sit around the table, they can have conversations that support positive verbal communication skills.

What inspired this activity?

This activity was inspired by the book STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers. This book also includes activities about restaurant design, logos, and making a lemonade stand.

A young child is participating in the Dinosaur Doctor activity. He is using a wooden thermometer to check a dinosaur's temperature.
5. Dinosaur Doctor

Begin this activity by reading the book How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, and placing it in your dramatic play center for children to reference. Discuss what dinosaurs need to survive, like food, solid bone structure, water, and housing. Then, children will take turns playing the role of doctors as they care for sick or injured dinosaur toys. As children play, encourage them to observe, investigate, and diagnose the types of illnesses and injuries they will need to mend. Ask the following questions to elicit this type of play:

  • What instruments might help you observe a dinosaur with a sore throat?
  • What kind of bandage would a dinosaur with a broken claw need?
  • How much medicine might you give a T-Rex with dino flu?
  • How do you know this dinosaur has dino flu? What symptoms might you observe that tell you that?
  • What might be wrong if a dinosaur fell off the swing and now has a hurting leg?

Materials:

Ways to enrich this activity:

On a large sheet of paper, create a chart with one column representing the various dinosaurs who need a doctor's visit and another representing potential illnesses and injuries the children will need to mend. As dinosaurs visit the doctor, have the children check in the appropriate column to track the various injuries and illnesses mended during the day. Here's an example of what this chart could look like:

 

Broken Claw

Sore Neck

Dino Flu

T-Rex

   

Stegasaurus

   

Triceratops

   

Ask the children to hypothesize about the number of dinosaurs diagnosed with each illness or injury. As a group, count the tally marks and discuss your findings. Use "more than" or "less than" to incorporate math vocabulary as you compare your findings.

What inspired this activity?

This activity was inspired by the book STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers. This book also includes activities about interior design, career pretend play, and restaurant reviews. 

Dinosaur-themed construction and block center activities for your preschool classroom:

A young child is sitting on a blue classroom carpet, he is using a T-Rex toy to push over a tower of wooden blocks.
6. Wreck-It, Rex

A great accompaniment to this activity is the book Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton. For this activity, provide children with various blocks and loose parts and encourage them to work together to build structures and towers that can withstand the force of a dinosaur in motion. As the children build, promote the development of critical-thinking skills by asking questions such as:  

  • Which blocks might you choose for the bottom of your structure and why?
  • That keeps falling over. What might you add to the structure to make it more secure?
  • How might you stack the blocks so they are more difficult to knock over?
  • Is your structure more sturdy when you build it taller or wider? Why do you think that is?

After the children build their tower, roll or softly toss a dinosaur toy in the direction of the tower. Have the children observe what happens to their structure once the dinosaur comes into contact with the blocks. Encourage children to predict what they think will happen to their structures once the dinosaur makes contact with it. Continue building new structures and testing their strength until all children can enjoy this activity. 

Materials:

Ways to enrich this activity:

To incorporate math concepts such as counting and number recognition, create number activity cards, starting with the number 10 and going up to 20. Have the children draw a number card from the stack and build a structure using only that amount of blocks. Again, encourage the children to hypothesize and test theories about the types of blocks and structures they can create that will withstand the force of a dinosaur.

What inspired this activity?

This activity was inspired by the books STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers and Simple STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6. Both of these books contain even more activities related to blocks, engineering, and blueprints. 

A young child sits on a blue classroom carpet, he is placing dinosaurs on a block pathway while participating in the Migration Station activity.
7. Migration Station

This activity encourages children to think like budding engineers as they create pathways and transportation systems that help dinosaurs migrate from one location to another. This activity also introduces children to the concept of migration and why animals move to different parts of the world throughout the year. 

Begin by gathering various building materials such as blocks, strings, loose parts, cardboard, etc. Place a group of dinosaur toys on one side of the children's building space to designate a starting point for the herd. Place one dinosaur toy on the opposite side of the building space to establish the final migration destination. Next, place random objects, such as baskets or tall blocks, between the two points to act as "obstacles" the dinosaurs must traverse on their migration journey. 

Encourage the children to work together to build pathways, pulley systems, or steps that dinosaurs can use to cross all obstacles and safely reach their final migration destination. As the children build, inspire new ways of thinking by asking questions such as:

  • What might you create to help the dinosaurs go over this obstacle?
  • What direction should your dinosaurs go if I place an obstacle in this location?
  • How might you create a migration pathway to take your dinosaurs to the blue block for a drink of water?

Materials:

Ways to enrich this activity:

To introduce the concepts of patterns and sequencing, incorporate blocks of different colors or shapes and create the starting point of a migration pathway following an ABAB or ABCABC pattern. Ask the children to use blocks to repeat the pattern until the dinosaurs reach their migration destination. 

You can also introduce directional terms and early coding concepts by creating migration pathway blueprints that the children can use as a reference while building. Using a sheet of paper, draw and label a migration pathway using terms such as "Make a staircase that is three blocks tall" or "Turn the path by placing four blocks to the right."

What inspired this activity?

This activity was inspired by the books STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers and Simple STEAM: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for ages 3 to 6. Both of these books contain even more activities related to blocks, engineering, and blueprints. 

Help children learn through play!

There are many ways to incorporate dinosaur-themed activities into your daily lesson plans. Use the activities above as inspiration in your classroom, and feel free to make changes to better suit the needs of the children in your care. 

Ready to add these activities to your lesson plans? Download a PDF version of this article to quickly and easily refer to the materials, activity details, and enrichment opportunities. 

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