Learning about different types of fossils and how fossils are made is a fun geology activity for kids. It fits well with our rock activities for Earth Science. Kids will love exploring trace fossils by making dinosaur footprints in pretend mud.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

Exploring Trace Fossils

Fossils can be divided into two types: body fossils and trace fossils. Body fossils are made from the remains of an organism – things like bones, teeth, shells, and plant parts. They tell us what the organism actually looked like.

Want to know more about fossils and how the different forms are made then check out these fossil activities which demonstrate mould and cast fossils as well.

Trace fossils show us how an organism lived. Things like footprints, burrows, tracks, and coprolite (poop) are trace fossils. Have you ever seen footprints or animal tracks in the mud? If the conditions are right, those footprints can turn into fossils. Sediment fills the tracks and eventually turns into rock. Erosion or weathering can uncover the now fossilized animal tracks.

Printable Dinosaur Games and Activities Now Available in the Rainy Day Mum Store

Make Dinosaur Footprints in Pretend Mud

We have included affiliate links to the products we used in this activity for kids. If you purchase via these links we may earn a small commission.

When we think of fossils, we usually think of dinosaurs, so let’s look at how dinosaur footprints could turn into fossils.

First, you’ll need some mud. You could use real mud, but since my toddler was helping with this activity, I wanted to use a taste safe pretend mud. I made some chocolate oobleck mud dough. The chocolate gives the mud the brown color we’re looking for. Oobleck is cornstarch and water. It is a non-Newtonian fluid just like mud. To get the consistency of a dough, I added in some instant pudding mix. The gelatin in the instant pudding mix helps hold the dough together. It’s thicker than just regular oobleck.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

After you make the mud, it’s time to introduce the dinosaurs. When selecting dinosaurs, you’ll want to look at their feet. We found that some of the foot shapes made better prints than others. The larger feet also made better tracks. I like the Spinosaurus from this set of Jumbo Dinosaurs. We also used this set of Jumbo Dinosaurs: Mommas and Babies.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

Walk the dinosaurs across the mud. Can you vary the depth of the tracks by pushing the dinosaurs down? Would a running dinosaur make a different track than a walking dinosaur?

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

Squish the dough and make new tracks as often as you like.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

When you’re finished exploring, let the tracks dry. The mud dough will begin to crack and lighten in color just like real mud!

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

This type of trace fossil is a mold fossil. You could also make a cast of the footprint by filling in the track with plaster of Paris or something similar. (Note that plaster of Paris is not edible. Be sure to read the directions and cautions before use.) You won’t be able reuse the dough after you create the cast.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

After making dinosaur footprints in the mud, my kids made handprints in the mud. Once preserved, handprints would also be considered trace fossils.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

More Fossils Resources for Kids

After searching high and low for fossil kits for my kids when they started to become interested in fossils and prehistoric animals I discovered this Fossil Collection set on Amazon, I loved the fact that it includes REAL FOSSILS and a variety including a dinosaur bone but also some of the more common ones like a shark’s tooth and a coprolite (real fossilised poo!)

One of my favourite books to read when we explore fossils is Digging Up Dinosaurs by Aliki. It’s part fiction part non-fiction and goes through the work of a Paleontologist digging up fossils and how they do it.

Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

More Dinosaur and Fossil Activities for Kids

Help your children understand the formation of the different types of rocks with this simple edible sedimentary rock activity that they can make and eat.
Discover, enjoy, play and learn with this BIG list of dinosaur crafts and activities for toddlers and preschoolers that can't be missed.
Get your budding Paleontologist reading with these roaring good reads Dinosaur Books for toddlers and preschoolers - featuring fiction and non-fiction.
 

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Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.

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Discover how trace fossils are made with this fun sensory science activity for kids using edible mud dough and dinosaurs.
Author
Trisha Stanley

Trisha is an educator with a passion for science literacy and mom to Aiden, Lily, and Elon.

She’s the creator of Inspiration Laboratories, a blog dedicated to encouraging learning through creativity and play.

2 Comments

  1. Hi!

    I’m wondering how long this oobleck takes to dry usually, and if it creates a permanent mold that kids can take home and keep.

    Love the idea, thanks!

    1. Hi, I haven’t left it to dry before and I suspect it doesn’t create a permanent mold. If you are looking for something like that I suggest our Salt Dough Fossils which you can do with footprints as well as the actual dinosaurs.

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