I have done this frozen dinosaur activity countless times over the years! It’s a great option if you’re looking for simple sensory activities with preschoolers. My son and I have also excavated dinosaurs many times together. It’s a classic activity that never fails to keep the kiddos engaged and excited about learning. During one of our preschool summer camps, we even added a little “twist”!
Are you following Fun-A-Day’s Dinosaur Theme Pinterest board?
setting up the frozen dinosaur activity
The prep for this one is pretty simple! Just gather your items and throw them in containers with water to go in the freezer overnight!
The materials list for this one can be as extensive or simplistic as you need it to be. The only things you’ll really need are dinosaur toys, containers, and something the children can use to either break up the ice or melt it. I just used what I had on hand. But you may have to borrow or purchase a few small items. Here are some suggestions (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Plastic dinosaurs
- Assorted containers
- Black liquid watercolor
- Sensory bins
- Wooden mallets
- Spray bottles
- Cups or spoons
I grabbed plastic dinosaurs of varying sizes and placed them into different containers. I added water next, along with a splash of black liquid watercolors. My summer camp co-teacher suggested that the dinosaurs could be frozen in tar, thus the “need” for the black paint. Everything went into the freezer overnight.
Related: Dinosaur Sensory Bin with Cloud Dough
The following morning, I grabbed everything out of the freezer. It took a little bit of work, but I was able to remove every frozen dinosaur from the containers. The blocks of frozen “tar” were placed into a few different sensory bins, along with hammers (wooden, plastic, and real), salt, water, and squirt bottles.
Related: Snow Paint Sensory Bin with Dinosaurs
how the kiddos played
The kiddos wanted to know what was going on right away, so we explained about the dinosaurs stuck in tar. They were encouraged to act like paleontologists and free each frozen dinosaur from its confines!
The boys and girls set about their task with great enthusiasm! When they first observed the frozen tar, some kids weren’t able to see the dinosaurs. Some of the older children exclaimed, “It’s like they’re camouflaged!” The black watercolors really added a sense of mystery to this classic activity – a different level of fun for the kids.
Some children spent most of their time squirting water on the ice, while others focused on hitting and hammering. A few were really into using the salt to melt the ice. The salt wasn’t as action-oriented as the squirting and hammering, though! In the end , the children were successful in recovering each and every frozen dinosaur from the icy tar. I loved hearing, “I got one! I got one!” and “Hey, the salt really did work!” as the kiddos were excavating .
what did they learn?
Here are just a few things the kiddos learned with this activity:
- Salt causes ice to melt faster
- States of matter – solid (ice) and liquid (water), especially – but we did talk about gas (water vapor) too
- There are multiple ways to solve a problem
- Sensory exploration, mostly centered on touch and sight
- Lots of language skills
- Tons of opportunities for cooperating with other children
Have you ever tried this frozen dinosaur activity with your kids/students? How’d it go?
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Another way to free the dinosaurs could be heat, with a blow drier possibly. Love this idea, I will be trying with my kids and daycare next week.
I have done this many times over the years and the children always love it. I have had children request metal tools versus the plastic that I always start them out with. I have used the salt as well but absolutely love the “black tar” that was used in your activity! I will be using this when I present dinosaurs into our classroom this year1