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!


  1. How freaking cute are those!!! Where were you when I did my 5 year olds dino party!!! WE did the fossils, but no dino dig. And the skeletons are super adorable!!! I am your newest follower!!!

  2. What a creative idea! Isn't it amazing what you can find at the Dollar Tree? :) I'm your newest follower. ~ Megan I'm here via the Simply Designing Link Party.

  3. LOVE this idea! I am going to try making these for my son's b-day party! Thank you for sharing

  4. I looovvveee this idea! So cute! What is "play sand?" Is it just regular sand?

  5. Awesome idea! I bet the kids LOVED those kits!


  6. How many of these did you make? And was this your only favor for the kids? I'm wondering if I should do this and favor bags, or just this...

    1. Hi Jacqueline! If I remember correctly we had about 25 kids at the party. I also made dino tails/hats/feet for each child and "Thank You" magnet favors. Here is the post with all the party details if you are interested: http://mallardcovemommy.blogspot.com/2012/03/girly-dinosaur-party.html Thanks so much for looking and God bless!

  7. This is a great Idea. I will be using them for my spark group this week. Thank you for posting

  8. I love your ideas - just wondered how far ahead could I make these dinosaur digs? Any idea? My daughters party is about 3 weeks away, but I would love to get these done ahead of time. Thanks for your help.

  9. I wanted to share that I modified your idea for my Girl Scout Troop - we are doing an archeological dig with a human skeleton this week and my co-leader and I prepared our dig kits today. My niece is an archaeologist and and will be teaching the girls how to dig and she LOVED how they turned out. Can't wait to see the looks on the girls' faces when they dig out the bones. So fun! Thank you so much for sharing!


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