Christmas Presents for Geeks – Fossils and Models

by Deb on October 22, 2010


This is the second in my series of Christmas Presents For or From Science Geeks posts.  The first was about Bath Bombs. These fossils have many variations, they are aimed at children and little ones will need help.  My 2 year old was actively involved.

If you are interested in doing something like this it’s definitely not a last minute option, it’s taken us several goes to try different things out and let them all dry.  So my recommendation for a present would actually be a kit, either a commercial one or put together some plaster, plasticine and models.

The girls are fascinated by fossils including footprints, so we’ve been doing lots of different things based around plaster of paris.  I won’t talk about all of them in detail here, some of them I’ll save for later posts.  But so far we’ve:

  • Put toys  in plaster to dig out – unsuccessful, the plaster was too hard.  We’ll try it again with playdough.footprint
  • Buried ‘bones’ in hardened mud to excavate later.
  • Made model dinosaurs.
  • Cast a mud footprint.
  • Made handprints in plaster.
  • Made miniature dinosaur trackways.

Most of the things we’ve been using are from around the house or hardware store, they are not all necessary but they make it easier:

  • Plaster of Paris, picked up at the local hardware shop.
  • Vaseline, learnt when modelling for my sister many moons ago.  Anything you don’t want stuck to the plaster, use copious quantities of vaseline!
  • Plasticine from our art/craft supplies.
  • Lots of different plastic containers, including the trusty silicone cupcake moulds.
  • Powder paint, which I found at the newsagent while searching for plaster.
  • Little things to make models of, we just so happen to have some little dinosaurs.
  • Gloves
  • Scales
  • Measures for water and powder

There are very simple directions for making up the plaster, the only thing we did differently was add some powder paint, but leaving it white means you have the option of painting it afterwards.

Plaster Modelling

To make little models, flatten out a lump of plasticine and press your original into it.

plasticine moulds

The plasticine itself will be fine because it is oily, but we coated the plastic containers with vaseline to be safe.  Press the plasticine around your original and make sure it is a close fit, and make sure there is a raised edge to stop the plaster flowing out.  We had a great time making the trackways, telling stories about the little dinosaurs walking across the mud, falling over or being chased by the tyrannosaur.

making models


We’ll probably paint this trackway to make it more obvious, but you can see very detailed footprints and identify the paths.  The dinosaurs up the top need to be cleaned up a bit then we’ll paint them.

A homemade modelling kit is a fantastic Christmas present – tailored to your child’s interests, something to do during the holidays, combines imaginative and practical play, and when it’s done you still have the models and plasticine to play with. This post is part of the We Play linkup at Childhood 101 and the Carnival of Messy Play.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ro October 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm

For a slightly older child’s activity at our homeschool group I placed small plastic dinosaurs in foil patty pans (sitting in a muffin tray) then covered them with plaster.
The kids enjoyed them, for the younger kids I printed up hand-drawn maps of Oz divided into states/territories with the spot marked in each area where dinosaur fossils have been found with the dinosaur itself cut out of different coloured felt.
The shapes of the states/territories were also cut out of different coloured felt, giving the kids the chance to learn the names,shapes and localities of the states of Oz plus the dinosaurs that belonged in each area.
That way the felt dinosaurs stuck to the felt state they lived in, with names and facts detailed around the outside of the map.
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Deb October 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm

We actually buried little toys in plaster, but so far it’s been too hard for us to get them out! That’s why we buried some of them in mud and have been leaving it to set, it’s just ready to dig out now. I’ll have to play around with the mix to make it easier to dig into.

The felt with dinosaurs sounds wonderful, we use felt boards for dolls and stories, I hadn’t thought of using it for learning like that.


Hear Mum Roar October 26, 2010 at 10:21 am

My three dino-mad kids would go insane for this! How fun!


kebeni October 26, 2010 at 11:31 am

what a great idea!
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Caz October 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

We made some ‘fossils’ using playdough and toy dinosaurs recently, but it never occured to me to use plaster to make castings – what a cool idea! They turned out great too, you can see all the details and everything.
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Anne@LittleSproutBooks October 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Making your own molds is brilliant! and the possibilities are endless! Do you by any chance read 12 Crafts till Christmas? You might want to submit this one!
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Trish October 26, 2010 at 4:05 pm

what a great idea to try yourn own moulds.
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Chapter Forty October 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Paster of paris is a magical material. We were given a make and paint mould kit and it was awesome fun, but making your own mould takes it one step further and is a brilliant idea.
A new park near us has dinosaur bones at the bottom of a huge sandpit. It is just the best thing ever!. They are really deeply buried and white in colour and look like a rig cage on its side. Last time we were there B spent the whole time digging for its head. Sadly he didn’t find it, but there will always be next time.


Jane October 27, 2010 at 2:05 am

I really want to try playing with molds– It’s something I’ve never done. How fun to make dinosaurs!
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cathy@nurturestore October 30, 2010 at 12:49 am

We’ve used a kit before but I think my girls would love to make their own moulds. Thanks for a great idea for our Messy Play Carnival.


Christie - Childhood 101 November 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm

What a great gift idea, thank you for the inspiration.
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Michelle Willow November 8, 2010 at 5:38 am

Love this! We have messy play weekly linky theme: if you like you can participate. And stop by from time to time, we have different theme each week. 🙂
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Foam Fabricator December 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Very creative idea for kids! You can make anything when you make your own molds. A great way for a child to make a creative gift for his or her loved ones.


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