Dino-mite! Discovering dinosaurs with your kids
There is much ado about dinosaurs, and the fascination with these prehistoric beasts seems to be alive and well among all of the generations. What is it that makes us so interested in these giant creatures?
Is it the fact they roamed the earth more than 65 million years ago? Is it because they have cool names like Deinonychus, Maiasaura and Iguanodon? Is it because some had frightful reputations like Tyrannosaurus rex, a fierce tyrannosaur that dominated the Cretaceous period? Or it is simply because their bones and fossils give us all a glimpse of an era that existed before humans even inhabited the earth?
Fossils have been found at numerous excavation sites, and the finds are on display in museums throughout the world. Many are still being discovered; one such notable find was the discovery of the world-famous fossil known as “Sue.” Sue is the largest, best-preserved and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, and she is 42 feet long from snout to tail! Sue was discovered in 1990 by a group of workers from the Black Hills Institute who were searching for fossils in western
South Dakota. Sue is named after the paleontologist who made the find, Sue Hendrickson. Like Hendrickson, there are people who have built careers around the study of dinosaurs, folks who build replicas and those who make movies. Dinosaurs are a part of our culture in many ways as once again there seems to be a surging interest in the beasts.
Discovering dinosaurs with your children can be an exciting adventure as well as a valuable educational experience. With many resources available via museums, books, games and especially the Internet, studying about these magnificent creatures can be as general or as extensive and in depth as you and your kids would like to make it. If they are studying about dinosaurs in school you can get on board with extracurricular opportunities. Trips to the library to look at books on the subject are a great way to get out of the house and spend some quality time together. The advantage of the library is that you will be able to find resources for all ages. So whether you are looking for a picture book to read to your preschooler or something more academic for your middle school or even high school child, you will find everything you need at your local library.
If hands-on or in-person viewing is more your family’s style, every state has some type of resource available for the dinosaur lovers. Natural history museums usually have wonderful exhibits on the topic and are a treasure trove of facts and education. If the museum is at a distance from your home, why not make an adventure out of a day trip to the museum or integrate it with your family vacations plans? With some creative planning and input from the kids, you could turn the adventure into a memorable dinosaur weekend with food, movies and even traveling music with a dinosaur theme.
If delving into the world of the creatures of the Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Mesozoic Eras is on your family’s bucket list, start by finding out what resources are offered in your area. For example, California residents will be delighted to know that there are several options available in different areas. Los Angeles has the Dino Encounters and Dino Lab at the Natural History Museum, and it also houses the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series of skeletons ranging from baby through young adult. The Page Museum located at the LaBrea Tar Pits is also a fascinating destination. San Diego has the exciting exhibit Fossil Mysteries at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., boasts one of the largest dinosaur displays in the country.
The educational value of studying dinosaurs is rich. Dinosaurs evoke the visions of mysterious places of long ago. Grandparents may even remember scenes from movies back in the days when their generation explored the fascination of dinosaurs through movies cheaply made with special effects that would bring peals of laughter from kids today. Dinosaurs appeared in literary works such as Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and even the classic children’s tale, Danny and the Dinosaur. Science, geology, anthropology, biology, literature and more are fields that can be explored through the study of dinosaurs. HLM
Sources: education.com, icr.org, inyocounty.us, ucmp.berkeley.edu and wikipedia.org.
Kid-friendly Dinosaur Sites and Resources
For travel-at-home visits to learn about dinos to exhibits that might be on your next vacation itinerary, check out the resources here.
• Science Kids: sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/dinosaurs/types.html
• Dino Facts: dinosaurfacts.org
• BBC Earth, Walking with Dinosaurs: bbcearth.com/walking-with-dinosaurs
• Dinosaur Movies that won’t freak your kids out: http://www.kidspot.com.au/lifestyle/career-and-money/career/10-dinosaur-movies-that-wont-give-your-kids-nightmares
• Dino exhibits your kids will love: minitime.com/trip-tips/10-Dinosaur-Attractions-Kids-Will-Dig-article
• Great dinosaur books for young readers: childrensbooksguide.com/dinosaurs