Dinosaurs are one of the things that have long fascinated both my kids and I. We have loved watching programmes about them, reading about them and creating dinosaur activities inspired by them. As they are older now though I really want to take their understanding and learning to the next level so we are looking at the dinosaurs from the 3 different periods and creating a timeline to show why the Megalosaurs and the Tyrannosaurs wouldn’t ever have hunted together. So here we go a DIY Dinosaur Timeline Activity for school kids that is perfect for pairing with reading Dinosaurs Before Dark.

dinosaurs before dark timeline activity for kids inspired by the magic tree house book
Dinosaurs Before Dark Activity for Kids

Dinosaurs Before Dark ~ Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

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The first book in the Magic Tree House Series is Dinosaurs Before Dark in this early chapter book for kids learning to read you are introduced to the main characters for the series, Jack who is 8 and a half and his younger sister Annie who is just 7 years old, as well as the Magic Tree House. Before you head off in a prehistoric adventure with the kids.

Dinosaurs before dark and activity based on the book
Dinosaurs Before Dark #1 in the Magic Tree Hosue Series and a fun timeline activity for kids.

Arriving in the Late Cretaceous Period they encounter some of the dinosaurs from the era including the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex and through the story, you and your child will get to learn a little bit about these dinosaurs.

Making A Dinosaur Timeline

Extending on the knowledge gained from the book we have created this DIY Dinosaur Timeline for your children and you to research, create and then use whilst learning a little more about dinosaurs and also a bit more about the history of the earth.

kids researching dinosaurs and filling in the research sheets
Kids filling in the research sheets using the internet as one of the sources of information

Don’t forget that you need to download the dinosaur research sheets and images to cut out and use.

Understanding the History of the Earth

Before you start to work on creating a timeline with your children it’s important that they understand that the history of the earth is divided up.

From Eons to eras, to periods, to epochs and ages earth has been changing over the last 4.54 billion years.

Within just one Eon, the Phanerozoic, life as we know it evolved and it is within this Eon, that the era that makes up the rise of the reptiles “the dinosaurs” exits.

The Mesozoic Era, the middle era. This Era is subdivided into the periods Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous and is where the timeline for the dinosaurs will focus.

If you would like to put it into context for your children in terms of the history of the earth you can draw a timeline and show where life as we know it and the dinosaurs fit.

Hands on Learning Geological Timescale
Geological Time Scale Model for Kids to Make

See our example below and follow the instructions on our creating a Timeline of the History of the Earth if you want.

kids making a dinosaur timeline
Placing dinosaurs on the timeline to show when there were alive during the Mesozoic Era

cretaceous dinosaurs on a timeline
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DIY Dinosaur Timeline for Kids to Make

A dinosaur timeline to create with the kids showing where dinosaurs fitted into the 3 different periods of the Mesozoic Era
Prep Time15 mins
Active Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Keyword: Dinosaur Activities, Learning, Timeline
Yield: 1 Dinosaur Timeline
Author: Cerys Parker

Equipment

  • Scissors
  • Printer & Ink
  • Ruler

Materials

Instructions

Prep Ahead

  • Download and print the Dinosaur Timeline Resource – save the answer sheets to help if needed.
    Dinosaurs before dark and activity based on the book
  • Cut out around the dinosaurs for the timeline and label the reverse side
  • Keep the dinosaur era research sheets for you and your child to complete

Making the Dinosaur Timeline

  • Stick the two pieces of white cardstock together short sides joining.
  • On the bottom of the cardstock (leaving enough room for labelling) draw a line that is 40cm long this represents the Mesozoic Era all 200 million years of it.
  • With the first colour of paper cut out a strip 10cm long. This is the Triassic Period.
  • On the second coloured paper cut another strip 11cm long. This is the Jurassic Period.
  • With the third coloured paper cut a strip that is 16cm long. This represents the last period of the Mesozoic Era the Cretaceous.

Researching the Dinosaurs and Creating the Timeline

  • Using the research sheets with the dinosaurs and a resource of your choice fill in the period in which the dinosaurs and other reptiles first appeared and then when they disappeared.
    The Mesozoic Era was from 251million years ago to 66million years ago we have created a timeline that is slightly longer than the era so you can include mammals or plants that would have come before or after the time.
    kids researching dinosaurs and filling in the research sheets
  • Once you have the research now it's time to assemble the timeline and add in the dinosaurs.
  • Now take your 1st colour and place this to the left end of the line leaving a little gap to represent the end of the Paleozoic Era.
  • At the end of the 1st strip, place the 2nd coloured paper. Then the 3rd.
  • Label the strips in order Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.
    mesozoic era drawn to scale for a timeline dinosaur project with kids
  • Now glue on the dinosaurs and other reptiles.
  • There are a lot of dinosaurs so we used coloured paper the same as the timeline to glue on the dinosaurs that we had no room for.

Notes

We recommend either finding a good none-fiction dinosaur book or using the internet to conduct the research into the different dinosaurs to show which era they belong in. Although we have included dinosaurs we have also included other noteable reptiles in the research sheets that it would be useful to put in the timeline as well.

Dinosaurs of the Triassic and Jurassic
Triassic and Jurassic Dinosaurs
dinosaur timeline for kids
Complete dinosaur timeline – the kids picked their favourite dinosaurs to showcase in each period in the Mesozoic Era

More Activities for Learning About Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are so fascinating and we have created some fun activities in the past about dinosaurs check them out below these would be ideal to do alongside this timeline as part of a Dinosaur Unit Study Inspired by Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne.

Classification and sorting of dinosaurs working on science and math knowledge with preschoolers
Fun Dinosaur Science for kids this summer, based on the book Dinosaur A to Z bringing alive children's storybooks for kids of all ages

Using toy dinosaurs – why not explore what the difference in their teeth shows about how they eat with this sorting and classification activity.

Explore how some of the dinosaur predators used their defences with this fun Dinosaur Science Experiment.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.
Make these dinosaur fossils with kids out of 3 kitchen ingredients and then paint them to make them more realistic or leave them natural.

We know about dinosaurs because of the signs that they have left in the Geological Timeline. Their fossil evidence. You can explore these with your kids using our 2 fun fossil activities.

The first is looking at trace fossils – like the dinosaur footprints. Make up your own “mud” and then use the mud to make trace fossils with kids.

Trace fossils are just one sort of evidence the other is more complete skeletons or the molds of the skeleton. We have our own version to make with Salt Dough Mold Fossils.

Resources for Learning More About the Mesozoic Era and Dinosaurs

I hope we’ve explained enough above to give you the knowledge to create your own timeline however if you would like more information about The Mesozoic Era or “The Age of Reptiles” we recommend watching the YouTube video below with your child.

We’ve also put together a book list of dinosaur-themed fiction books for 6 – 9-year-olds that are perfect to read alongside Dinosaurs Before Dark if you want to explore this topic more with your kids.

Join our Newsletter For More Ideas Inspired by The Books in the Magic Tree House Series

Are you reading The Magic Tree House Series with your child?

Would you like to extend the reading with more book based activities like this Dinosaur Timeline Activity that combine learning and creativity?

Magic Tree House Activities and Resources from Rainy Day Mum

Then why not join our Magic Tree House Series Newsletter, every other week at least 1 new idea for the next book in the series will arrive in your inbox to share with your child helping explore the topics and themes through History, Geography, Art, Science and more.

Just fill in the form below and we look forward to welcoming you as well as providing this and additional ideas for the Dinosaurs Before Dark Book in your first newsletter.

Hands-on Learning Dinosaur Timeline
Create your own Dinosaur and Reptile Timeline for the Mesozoic Era with kids – ideal for showing why a Trex and a Stegasaurus would not fight
Author
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, high school teacher and mum. Realising that life doesn't have to be put on hold and you don't just have to survive whilst the kids are young she shares ideas to inspire you to LIVE with the kids, with activities to do together, recipes to cook and enjoy and family travel to make memories to last a lifetime.

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