Paleontology Play! Dinosaur Digging

We’ve been staying home a lot this past week while my son’s been sick with a cold. One afternoon, he asked, “Can I dig for dinosaurs in the backyard?” We have a section of the yard that isn’t landscaped, so that was perfectly fine with me.

Dinosaur digging can be done in a patch of dirt in your backyard, in a sandbox, at the beach, or out at the park.  I only recommend that you mark off the area, so the items aren’t lost forever if they aren’t found.  As for tools, my son likes to use a shovel, a little pick (a small screw driver could work), and paint brushes in several different sizes.  Here are three versions of this activity:

  • Just Dig:  Simply have your child dig in the dirt and see what they can find. This is what my son felt like doing. He found some rocks that he pretended were fossilized dinosaur bones. He created a whole story about what kind of dinosaur they came from, what bones they were, and how the dinosaur had died.
  • Bury and Dig:  Bury little plastic dinosaur toys in the dirt, and let your child dig until he/she finds them. Kids love digging for treasures!
  • Create, Bury, and Dig:  Is your child into art projects?  Make “bones” out of clay (try Crayola Air-Dry Clay). After they dry, bury them, and let your child dig them up. This requires the child to be more gentle, using a brush instead of a shovel, to prevent the bones from being broken.

We added to the activity by reading a dinosaur book outside. We make a weekly trip to the library, and, every week, my son picks out a new dinosaur book. We’ve checked out all of them by now, so we’re returning to old favorites. This week, we’re reading the Smithsonian’s Extreme Dinosaurs! Q&A.

Have fun!


  1. Kristin says:

    Cute idea, I love the little brush to dust of the bones.


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      That’s his favorite part! It makes him feel like a real paleontologist. In fact, I just buried some more dinosaur bones, and he’s outside “brushing them out” right this minute. He could do this every day!


  2. Jackie says:

    I love your idea of making dinosaur bones to hide. I am going to do this!!!


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      It seems like something your son would love! He’ll get more practice in patience while the “bones” are drying. It might be fun to paint them, too, though we leave them plain for a more realistic look.


  3. I love this idea, thank you for sharing!


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      My pleasure. This is an activity I use a lot. When I’m working on something, it’s so easy to send him into the backyard to dig.


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