Learn about Fossils

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Today, we learned about Fossils as part of our Dinosaur Unit Study. We made Fossil Dough to teach the kids about fossils, how they form, and how scientists use them to learn more about dinosaurs.

Making Fossil Dough is easy!

It’s a lot like salt dough, but with a wonderful coffee twist that makes it even more enjoyable for sensory play. I changed the basic recipe a little to make ours have more of a chocolate smell. To make some for your kids you’ll need:

1/2 Cup Used Coffee Grounds
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/4 Cup Fresh Coffee Grounds
1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 Cup Cold Coffee

Mix it all up together, adding more flour or coffee as needed until the consistency is right, and it doesn’t stick to your fingers. The final result is a sensory dough that is a little grainy. This dough would be a wonderful addition to any sensory bin!

See our printable pack for more sensory dough recipes

Fossils 2

Once you have the dough, you can start learning about fossils by pressing everyday objects into the dough, and pulling them carefully up to leave a clean imprint of the object. We used play dinosaurs to leave footprints, and smaller figures to leave an imprint of their full body.


You can bake this dough or leave it out to dry until it’s hardened, and then play with it more by attempting to match the objects to their imprint, or by burying them, and pretending to dig it up carefully.

fossil5 Making imprints with her Dino Construction Company toy

Some things to talk about as you explore the dough:

  • What makes a better imprint, hard objects, or soft ones? Can you make an imprint with a leaf? How about a cotton ball? Why do you think we have fossils of dinosaur skeletons, but not their skin or muscles?Explain to your children that soft objects, like the feathers on a bird, or the wings of a bug are less likely to show up in fossil form because they are so thin and delicate (although it’s not impossible!)


  • Experiment with the texture of the dough, and see if you can get better detail with better textures. Why do some parts of the world have more fossils than others?
    A smooth dough, like play-dough, will show more of the fine details of an object than a grittier dough would. Some environments were more conducive to preserving fossils than others due to the make up of their soil, the temperature, moisture levels, and other factors.


  • How do you think the fossil skeletons of dinosaurs you see in the museum were made?
    This experiment shows how one kind of fossils form- over time, soil and sediment would fill the imprint, and that would become fossilized. Other fossils are formed  by re-mineralization (bones become fossilized this way- they get buried, and over time, become more like rocks than bones because a chemical change occurs), by being encased and preserved in something (like amber covers bugs), or by becoming petrified!


  • What kinds of things from our time could be fossilized, and what would it tell future people about us and our life right now?
    Fossils are the only thing we have to help us learn more about dinosaurs- it’s all the evidence we have left of them! While you make imprints of every day objects, discuss with your children what they say about us, and our lives. 

    Fossils 3

Learn more about fossils and dinosaurs

Visit Fossils for Kids (make sure you check the site out first, I can’t promise all the links are kid friendly) and look at the different types of fossils and how they form.

25% off on entire purchase!

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