Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DIY Dino Dig Kits

Pin It We're getting all geared up for Elena's big 4th Birthday bash early next month. When asked what kind of party she wanted this year, there was absolutely no hesitation before her emphatic declaration..."a DINOSAUR party!" (which was a good thing, because Mommy had already created a Pinterest board dedicated to her 4th birthday dinosaur party).

I knew that I wanted to do a dino dig but we scheduled the party at our local science center. We needed something portable, individual sized, and a dig that would take no more than 20 minutes (due to the other activities they had planned and the attention span of our age group). I found some really neat kits at Oriental Traders but after reading the reviews, I realized it might be too time consuming and challenging for 3-5 year olds (plus the price didn't exactly fit into my budget).

I began my search for the perfect DIY kits online. I found some great resources for DIY fossils but I wanted the kids to leave the party with more than an imprint of a dinosaur skeleton (that's not as much fun to play with as a dinosaur action figure). I also wanted the dig to be a bit more authentic than just sifting through a bit of sand to find a plastic dinosaur. I found a great recipe for treasure stones, but I liked the idea of being able to use a brush to clean the surface of the bones and I didn't think the doughy consistency of the treasure stones would have the same effect. I even found a dino excavation cake that I considered doing. There were a few sites that had directions for plaster dig kits, but once again, that activity wouldn't fit within our time frame and could be a bit more of a challenge for little hands.

Finding no results I was completely satisfied with, I decided to combine several of the ideas I discovered into my own version of a dino dig kit. At best guess, they ended up costing just over $2 each.


Miniature dinosaur skeletons from Amazon (12 for $9) I have since found similar ones in 2 packs at Dollar Tree
Small aluminum baking tins (Dollar Tree purchase three for $1)
Salt dough (see recipe below)
Digging tools (see list below for what I included)
Printed dinosaur cards from Dinosaur Train's Field guide

I started with a simple salt dough recipe that I modified a bit for my needs. One batch made enough for two tins.

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup play sand
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup luke warm water
1 heaping Tablespoon dried, used cofee grounds
2 drops each of red, yellow, and blue food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 300
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sand, and coffee grounds together until combined well
3. tint water with food coloring to get a brownish color (it will look more purple but turns out to be more brown when combined with the other ingredients)
4. Gradually mix in the water (you may only need 3/4 cup because you don't want your dough to be too wet)
5.With your hands, form a ball with your dough and kneed it for at least 5 minutes. The longer you kneed your dough, the smoother it will become.
6. Divide your dough into two even balls and roll out each to about a 1/2" depth, about 4" x 6.5" (the size of the bottom of the tins)
7. Place the dough in the bottom of the tin and press a dinosaur skeleton into the dough until you get a nice impression of the dinosaur (I rocked it back and forth to make sure all of the skeleton appeared in the dough).
8. Bake for about 1 hour or until dough becomes hardened (do not over cook because the dough may begin to shrink)
9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
10. When dough has cooled a bit but is still somewhat pliable, press the dinosaur back into the mold just to insure that the dough doesn't shrink too much as it cools.
11. Allow dough to cool completely.
12. Cover over the top of the dinosaur and dough with play sand.

After the dig, I plan to have bags for the kids to put their "kits" in if they want to take them home and enjoy them again, with or without the dinosaur skeleton. I love that it will function both as an activity at the party and a favor.

I also wanted the kids to know exactly what kind of dinosaur they unearthed, so I found FREE printable information cards on the Dinosaur Train website. I found matches to all of the skeletons and glued the cards to the lid on the inside of each tin.

Next I tied up each tin with pink and orange tulle (that matches our color scheme) and printed out color-coordinating tags the read "Dinosaur Excavation Site." I also tied their excavation tools to the top with the tulle.

Excavation tools included:
Plastic Spoon for digging
1" brush ($0.59 each from Joann)
Small Magnifying Glass ($0.35 each from Party City)
Bamboo Fork (75 for $1 at Dollar Tree)
Bamboo Pick (25 for $1 at Dollar Tree)

Keep your eyes pealed because I am sure I will be sharing more details to her party as the date gets closer like the party hats, dino tails, and dino feet as well as cupcake decorations, menu items and invitation design! This Mama LOVES to plan a party!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

3+2=5 Ye of little faith...

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We've known since November, but just announced to the general public a couple of weeks ago...August 6th (or based on our previous two experiences late July) we will be adding a third and final little one to our family!  Knowing this is likely the last time I will experience the joy of pregnancy and delivering a new life into the world, I started a pregnancy journal early on (something I thought of doing with both girls, but neglected to do for whatever reason). I looked back on some of my early entries today and it hit me square in the face how little faith I have sometimes. Here is the first excerpt from my journal, right after we took the first pregnancy test:

We went back and forth for SEVERAL months discussing whether we wanted a third child, what practical differences it would make in our daily life, would we be able to provide for three in college and school, etc., etc., etc....Patrick was worried about being an old father and I somehow never imagined that Kate would be our last baby, but we both agreed that if we had a third, that would be it for us. We finally agreed that three would be a good number for our family and felt that God wouldn't put the desire in our hearts if it wasn't within His will. As teachers, we saw first hand the benefits of siblings who were closer in age so we knew that we didn't want the baby and Kate to be three years apart in school. With that knowledge, we decided to start trying in May or June.

With Elena and Kate, we were successful on our first and only try each time so when we decided to start trying for number three, we assumed it wouldn't be any different. We were wrong. After five months of trying and no success, we started believing maybe we were wrong, and God didn't intend for us to have any more children. We decided to give it one more month of trying and we began to prepare ourselves for the reality of only having two children. We were beginning to accept the idea and I didn't want to get my hopes up again, so I waited to calculate a possible due date and take an early pregnancy test until that "P" date on the calendar. I didn't want to hope, but with my first two babies, I remember one of the very first signs was thirst. For a few days I had been craving ice water and guzzling it by the glass fulls. I honestly chalked it up to the fact that I had been doing some work outside and a lot of dusting (yet again, I didn't want to get my hopes up). But finally, on the night before the big "P" date on the calendar, I asked Patrick if he thought I should take a test the next morning. He asked if it would be accurate and I told him I thought it would.

November 27th, 2011:
I woke up having to use the bathroom so I lay in bed for a while trying to decide if I wanted to take the test. I told Patrick I had to go and asked him if I should test. He said go ahead. I went in the bathroom and took the test. I tried to keep my eyes closed and count the three minutes you are supposed to wait but of course I couldn't wait. I think I made it to 46 seconds before taking that first peek. Totally expecting to see a single pink line instead of two (as had been the case month after month before) I was shocked to see a VERY faint pink line next to the darker one. The first word I uttered was a very soft "baby" which then turned to a second louder "Baby" and finally a third loud "BABY!" I felt warm all over, weak and shaky. I showed Patrick and he didn't see it. We turned on more lights and he asked "Isn't it supposed to be darker than that?" I told him that it didn't matter how light or dark, a second line meant we were pregnant. We spent the day thinking about how our lives would change and re-adjusting to the idea that three was indeed a good number.

Isn't it just like our Lord to place a desire in our hearts, then wait until we completely let go and humble ourselves before Him to answer those long-awaited prayers? We know of so many who tried and tried and could not have children, or struggled for YEARS before having a child. Here we were with two beautiful, healthy girls. Who are we to question God and His perfect timing? I write this now as a reminder to myself in those times when I lose faith, or try to take control of the situation myself, that no matter how hard I try, HE is the one in control and HIS timing is always perfect. I need to trust Him even when I am in the "thick of things" and don't understand.