Many children are fascinated by dinosaurs, sometimes from a very early age. This makes dinosaurs a great topic for developing interest in nature, and for art projects where kids can develop creativity and fine motor skills. It won't matter if you have a room set up with easels for each child. Sitting at desks or working at a low craft table that's long enough to accommodate active little elbows will work very well. These painting ideas will work best if preceded by a brief discussion with preschoolers about some of the facts we know about dinosaurs.
Painting Inside and Outside the Lines
Provide the children with black and white images of dinosaurs. Many dinosaur images are available for free online, from several educational sources. Each child should have several pots of colour to choose from. Ask them to fill in the body of the dinosaur with colours. This is a creative project and as such they should be told they can paint stripes, circles, dots or squiggly lines as they fill in the dinosaur body.
Post images of dinosaurs, big and small, in a prominent location in the room. Place a craft table near the images, and set the table up with paper, fingerpaints, water and brushes. Ask the children to choose a dinosaur image, and paint it on their sheet with their fingers. Provide several sheets and pots of finger paints. If they can't decide which one, ask them to start with the one on the top (or the first, etc).
Use a collection of sticky dinosaur stencils. Buy dinosaur-shaped stencils and attach them to a sheet of construction paper, with repositionable adhesive (see Resources). Set a bowl of small sea sponges in the middle of the crafts table, along with several pots of paints. Tempera paintboxes will work fine if the sponges aren't too big.
Demonstrate how to dab the sponge into the paint and apply it to the stencil. Pull the stencil away so they can see the result.
Use dinosaur sponge capsules as an introduction to this painting project. Set the room up with large tub of water, and give each child a dinosaur sponge capsule. Let them release the capsule in water, and see it turn into a small dinosaur sponge. Next, ask them to wring out all the water, and go to a crafts table where they will put the dinosaur sponge in paint, and make an image on a piece of construction paper. Children can also use the sponge dinosaurs to make the background for a poster for a nature unit you'll be covering in class or background for a bulletin board.
Set up the work area with paint brushes, paints and paper. For this project, children should be wearing old shirts to protect their clothes. Have a conversation about what kind of dinosaurs Barney, Baby Bop and BJ are from PBS "Barney and Friends." Many adults criticise this show, but preschoolers love it, and Yale researchers have found that using references to Barney in preschool classrooms are motivating. Print off some images of these familiar characters, and provide the children with plenty of purple (Barney), green (Baby Bop) and yellow (BJ) paint to fill them in.
Show the children images of fossilised dinosaur tracks. Be specific about the type of dinosaur it it. Print out some of these outlines of dinosaur tracks, or trace them, and make copies. Ask the children to cut them out with a scissors, paint them and create a path through the classroom with dinosaur foot prints.
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