Ask almost any teacher, and they’ll agree: kids love dinosaurs!
That’s great news, because learning about dinosaurs in preschool is an excellent way to get younger children excited about science, inspire creativity and introduce critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime.
Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and Preschool® taps into children’s fascination with all things prehistoric with our annual Dinosaur Discovery theme. During the month of April, teachers integrate a variety of dinosaur-centered activities throughout our Reggio Emilia-inspired Creatively Shine™ curriculum.
What is it about these awesome creatures from long ago that stirs the imagination of 21st Century kids all over the world?
Why Do Kids Love Dinosaurs?
Paleontologist Jack Horner, who worked as an advisor for the Jurassic Park films, offers an explanation for why dinosaurs are so much fun to learn about: they’re big, they’re extinct and they’re different from present-day animals.
- Dinosaurs give us a glimpse into the distant past, teaching us about the history of life on earth.
- They’re also mysterious. Believe it or not, there’s still a lot that grown-ups — even experts with PhDs — simply don’t know about dinosaurs. That makes them perfect for stimulating curiosity and learning how to ask good questions, not just memorize facts.
- Studying dinosaurs gives preschoolers a chance to learn things their parents may not know. If you don’t know much about dinosaurs, your child gets to be the expert and teach you something cool they learned at preschool.
Many children develop an intense fascination with dinosaurs or other topics encountered in the classroom. Researchers have found that these so-called “obsessions” actually benefit kids in the form of longer attention spans, better information processing skills and greater persistence in learning about a new subject.
How to Nurture Your Young Paleontologist
There are lots of ways you can encourage your child’s interest in dinosaurs and other scientific topics outside of school. Here are a few ideas from evolutionary anthropologist Gwen Dewar.
- Concepts not statistics. Showing a tyrannosaurus rex beside a tree helps children visualize the size of the animal much more effectively than writing a number on the board. Qualitative presentations are ideal for young children who are learning to grasp early math skills such as counting and making comparisons like bigger-smaller.
- Encourage open-ended questions and discussion. What kinds of food did dinosaurs like to eat? Why did some eat plants while others preferred meat? How did adult dinosaurs care for their babies? How fast could they run?
- Visit child-friendly museums. It’s exciting to see dinosaur bones, fossils and other real-life evidence in person. Look for hands-on exhibits and friendly guides who encourage kids to ask lots of questions.
- Compare extinct animals to living ones. What did flying dinosaurs have in common with modern-day birds we see outside? Talk about lizards, alligators and other reptiles alive today. How are they related to dinosaurs from millions of years ago?
- Present environments, not just animals. Look for age-appropriate books depicting dinosaurs in the habitats they lived in. What other animals were present? What plants grew close by? This creates a richer learning experience than just showing isolated pictures of dinosaurs against a neutral background.
- Encourage critical thinking. It’s okay to let your child enjoy fictional stories about dinosaurs in books, cartoon shows or movies. Use this opportunity to explain that the depictions portrayed in popular culture don’t always match our current scientific knowledge.
At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse®, our Dinosaur Discovery theme features lessons for ages 0 to 5, all carefully designed to promote cognitive, language, social and physical development.
Teacher- and child-directed activities use a variety of interactive classroom materials like binoculars, small toothbrushes for brushing off fossils and model dinosaurs for the sensory table.
The prehistoric fun also includes an Easter egg hunt with traditional Easter eggs alongside of pretend dinosaur eggs, and parents are invited to attend!
Contact a location near you to learn more about Dinosaur Discovery and all of our exciting classroom themes at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse®!