A dough made from flour, salt and water -- the classic "salt dough" or homemade play clay -- offers a way for kids to create their own faux dinosaur fossils, either by using toy dinosaurs or by making dinosaur bone shapes. Even young children can participate; the dough is completely non-toxic.
Salt Dough Recipe
To make fake fossils, first you need to make the dough. Store the dough in an airtight container if you can't use it right away; otherwise, it will dry out and harden.
Step 1: Cover the Work Surface
Protect your work surface with wax paper or a plastic tablecloth.
Step 2: Mix the Dry Ingredients
Mix 2 parts flour with 1 part salt in a large bowl or container.
Step 3: Add Water
Pour in water a little at a time, stirring as you pour. Blend the ingredients completely. The total amount of water should be about the same as the amount of salt, or a little less -- just enough to reach a dough consistency.
Step 4: Knead the Dough
Grab a hunk of the dough and knead it in your hands for several minutes. Offer hunks of the dough to each child, if working with several children, so all of the dough gets kneaded.
- If the dough sticks to hands or the work surface, sprinkle flour on your hands or on the work surface. If all of the dough feels too sticky, mix more flour into it.
- The dough can be tinted with a few drops of food coloring, mixed in as you add the water.
Make faux fossils by creating impressions of dinosaur toys, or by making dinosaur bone shapes out of the salt dough. Young children may find it easier to make impressions of toys than to create specific shapes from the dough. Once the fossils are made, allow the dough to air dry for several days or until it is hard, or bake them on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple hours or until the dough is hard. Adjust the temperature upwards a bit if you can monitor the baking continually and don't want to wait so long.
Gather an assortment of dinosaur toys of various sizes to create different kinds of fossil impressions. Flatten balls of dough onto the work surface by hand or with a rolling pin sprinkled with flour, leaving the dough disks 1/4 inch thick or so. Press parts of the dinosaur toy into the dough to make an impression.
Create dinosaur footprint fossils across the dough with a dinosaur figure. Press one back foot
in first, then the other, and repeat several times to create a path of footprints.
Show children a picture or an illustration of dinosaur bones so they can shape their own dino bone fossils from the dough. Older children may spend a good deal of time creating the exact shape, such as a large fossilized tooth.
Children can paint their fossils afterwards with acrylic craft paints. Clean up paint messes afterwards with soap and water.