We are loving reading and learning around the topics from the Magic Tree House Series books for 6 – 9-year-olds. This week we’re sharing a full 2 week topic for the 1st book in the series Dinosaurs Before Dark. Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to sign up to our newsletter to get activities connected with each of the books straight to your inbox. Before then though read on for a complete Dinosaurs Before Dark Unit Study to do with your kids.
Dinosaurs Before Dark Unit
There is a wide range of activities as this series of books can be read with children from 6-9 years old depending on their abilities so look through the sections and choose areas that would interest you.
To supplement the book we also selected a few Dinosaur Fiction Books to read for pleasure.
We love to make these Dinosaur Corner Bookmarks (yes they are dragons but don’t put the flame or the wings and you have some pretty cool dinosaurs) to use over the topic work whilst reading Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne.
If you want something that is a little bit more factural then print off these Dinosaur Factfile Book Marks to use and refer back to as you find out more about the dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Math Activities
Sorting and ordering are great math skills and a bucket of dinosaurs will allow your child to explore this in different ways. We started by sorting dinosaurs based on how many feet they had (learning some new vocabulary along the way Bipedal and Quadrupedal).
Using a 10 Frame is a great way for younger school kids to get to grips with counting and addition this Dinosaur Ten Frame Game from Inspiration Laboratories is great to play together.
Measuring is another important math skills and this How Big Are My Dinosaur Teeth Activity from Whitty Hoots is great to do. You don’t even need to have a set of dinosaur teeth available.
Print out these Dinosaur Mazes – the number mazes are ideal for working on number recognition and counting as well as even and odd numbers. There are also alphabet mazes to download too!
English and Literacy Activities
High frequency or sight words are difficult for some children to learn whilst reading the first book in the Magic Tree House Series Dinosaurs Before Dark we used our Dinosaur Sight Word game to practice many of the sight words in the book.
Using inspiration from the dinosaurs that you encounter in the book follow in Jack’s footsteps and make some recordings about the different dinosaurs. In this Dinosaur Report Activity from Still Playing School, you can add in research for older kids as well as introduce some scientific vocabulary as you describe and talk about the different dinosaurs.
Syllables are a great method to learn to help with spelling and this Dinosaur Syllable Challenge from Royal Baloo is great to do with kids to work on them breaking down words and supporting learning to spell.
Spelling all the dinosaur names can be “interesting” however, you can help your child to learn them first by making these Dinosaur Name Spelling Puzzles and then looking at the names of dinosaurs and deciphering their origin in Greek and Latin – it’s a great way to help children learn new vocabulary as the words are in common use now.
Why not do some copy work from the book. Choose a favourite paragraph and then use this Dinosaur Themed Writing Paper from 3Dinosaurs to work on handwriting including cursive.
Did you know!
Dinosaur means Terrible Lizard!
Science Activities For Extending Reading of Dinosaurs Before Dark
We started our science topic with an activity that combined research, creativity, mathematics and science to make a timeline to scale of the 3 periods within the Mesozoic Era. The book focuses on the Cretaceous Era however, dinosaurs were around for 3, the Triassic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.
Dinosaurs provide a fun way to explore food chains. In this Energy Flow and Food Chain Activity from Teaching without Chairs using the free printables you can explore the food chain of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and of a Pteranodon
Classification is a big part of biology as is learning about the body. Although not our bodies dinosaur teeth are a little similar to ours for example carnivores have canines and herbivores have molar type teeth. We used this information to Sort Dinosaurs by the type of Food they ate using teeth structure.
Venn Diagrams take the sorting to the next level and make it possible to look at different factors. This Dinosaur Venn Diagram activity from Royal Baloo is the next step up from the simple sorting activity above.
Do you know what a Coprolite is? If you do then we have 2 fun activities one for slightly younger and the other for older kids using the same materials. If you don’t then basically it’s dinosaur poo. For younger kids then you can make your own dinosaur poo from Science Sparks that actually looks like poo and use it to discover what dinosaurs ate. If you have older kids then you can make your own Coprolites over on Preschool Powol Packets. to find the same thing out.
Dinosaurs had some really “interesting” body structures that had some very specific functions. In our dinosaur experiment, we look at the role of some of these and get to pretend dinosaurs as you investigate.
Fossils And Earth Science
For us, it seemed a really good place to talk about fossils and to do some earth science work especially as we researched how it was possible to know when dinosaurs happened on the earth using our Geological Timescale Activity.
In our science section, we made fossil dinosaur poo those Coporolites but it is possible to replicate the formation of 2 other forms of fossils.
You can make Trace Fossils – those that show the footprints of the dinosaurs or you can make Salt Dough Fossils which are mold fossils these are the ones that show the body forms and skeletons of the dinosaurs.
With the end of the dinosaurs, there was a lot of volcanic activity after the impact of the meteorite off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Although volcanoes will come up later in the series of Magic Tree House Books we did do some Volanco Activities with the kids as part of our Unit Study too.
Dinosaur Play, Craft & Motor Activities
The fossil activities we did were a lot of fun so we also set up a Fossil Dig Play area for the youngest who loved being a Palaeontologist discovering the skeletons and seeing if she could match them to the actual dinosaurs on our timeline.
After reading in one of the Non-Fiction Dinosaurs books we have about the prehistoric seas we followed the instructions on this Prehistoric Sea Life Small World Play on 3Dinosaurs and created our own sea.
Combining play and crafts you can make your own Dinosaur Small World with Egg Carton Volcanoes just follow the instructions over on Still Playing School.
We decided to make some Paper Mache Dinosaurs like Red Ted Art. They were a great hit, but kind of messy although neither kid minded.
A lot less messy but still fun is this Dinosaur Craft with Egg Cartons and Cupcake Liners over on Still Playing School. They make the cutest Triceratops.
Getting kids active is important and this Stomping Dinosaur Gross Motor Game from 3Dinosaurs kept the boredom at bay as we went along.
Field Trip Ideas
With a little research and luck, you may find like us that you have an area near you that has lots of fossils from the same time as the dinosaurs. You may even be lucky enough to have some trace fossils or even the real thing. For us, the fossils are at Felixstowe and are from shark and rays from around that time.
A lot of Natural History Museums have dinosaur exhibits or fossil collections. Some like the Natural History Museum in London have hands-on experiences that kids can enjoy as well. There are also museums dedicated to dinosaurs and Prehistoric life like the Thanksgiving Point: Museum of Prehistoric Life.
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.