Did you know that your kids can be little paleontologists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Disney’s Boneyard Dig Site? They can! The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a giant play area that contains the ‘bones’ of prehistoric animals of the past. It’s open to kids and parents of all ages and comes complete with buckets, shovels, and plenty of shade. (Glorious shade!)
Of course, that means making a trip to Walt Disney World if you plan to visit the Boneyard. A trip might not always be a possibility; whether that be because of distance or closures or any other number of reasons.
Never fear though! Regardless of if you are heading to the most magical place on earth any time soon, you can bring the Boneyard Dig Site home! Introducing my latest DIY project: Excavate Dinosaurs!!
With just a few items you might have on hand you’ll be able to put together a dinosaur excavation site. One that is reusable and perfect for sensory exploration. Let’s jump into the details.
Excavate Dinosaurs: DIY Style
Salt Dough (I used this recipe from Kitchen Floor Crafts. The salt dough was needed to form the dinosaur bones. The bones ‘cooked’ up perfectly. I added just a touch of yellow food coloring for dimension at the end.)
Old Container to Store or Glue Down Your Bones and Artifacts
Hot Glue and Hot Glue Gun (Optional if you want to glue down your ‘artifacts’)
1. Step One
Gather up all your supplies!
Nothing you need for this project has to be new. I used old paintbrushes and an old puzzle box to house my excavate dinosaurs project.
If you don’t want to have your bones and ‘artifacts’ glued down to your container, you don’t need the hot glue gun or glue. However, if you have little ones who love to throw things around, I recommend gluing things down. Just speaking from experience over here…
2. Step Two
The fun step!!
Make your salt dough bones following the recipe found here.
Be sure to let the bones cool after you’ve baked them. Remove them from your baking sheet and place them on a cool plate. I waited about an hour after taking them out of the oven before attempting to glue them down. Throwing your plate loaded with bones in the fridge might be a good way to accelerate the cooling process.
3. Step Three
Time to glue down your bones!
For the container, as I mentioned I used an old puzzle box. Whatever you use, make sure it has a lid. The lid is going to help keep everything (mostly) contained once your project is complete. Containers such as these disposable lasagna pans with lids are a perfect fit! You can find them here on Amazon or possible at your local grocery store.
Back to the glue…
I glued down the bones and then started adding random small objects to the collection. Then, I threw in a few hidden Mickeys while I was at it. I mean, what project is complete without a hidden Mickey or two? Old wooden beads work great as hidden Mickeys.
Let the hot glue cool before moving onto step 4 or else things might get a little messy.
4. Step Four
The glue and bones all cooled down? Now it’s time to add your cornmeal!
If you don’t happen to have any cornmeal you can add dirt, sand, flour, or any other finely textured substance to your box. Make sure to cover your bones, but that the container is not overflowing. Your little paleontologist won’t be able to play operation excavate dinosaurs if there’s too much cornmeal.
5. Step Five
Grab the brushes (and towel to place under your container) and let your little one get to work!
6. Step Six
Go pour yourself that cup of coffee!
You’ve probably just bought yourself a little peace and quiet! Pro-Tip: There will be a little clean-up involved if your little one is an active (read: messy, gets stuff everywhere, loves to throw things) learner. To help save yourself some time (and possible frustration) be sure to set up the exploration site outside.
Thoughts from an Occupational Therapist on the Excavate Dinosaurs: DIY Style
The Excavate Dinosaurs: DIY Style might be one of my new favorite ways to bring the Disney Parks home! Specifically the Boneyard: Dig Site at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
My kids are huge fans of the Boneyard: Dig Site at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It often comes up in conversation when we are home from the parks. Being able to bring a mini excavation site home was a hit.
How Can Operation Excavate Dinosaurs Help Your Kiddo?
At its basic level ‘Excavate Dinosaurs: DIY Style’ is a sensory bin.
However, it’s not just any ordinary sensory bin. No, it’s a creative twist on a sensory bin! A sensory bin that might be super motivating for kiddos who love dinosaurs.
Plus, if you have a little one who is sensitive to getting his or her hands dirty, this might be a good ‘gateway’ sensory bin. The ability to use brushes allows little ones to explore without getting their hands dirty. Plus, if you opt to use cornmeal, the cornmeal tends to be less ‘dirty’ than, say, dirt. Once your little one realizes that it will brush right off, they might dig right in for a little sensory exploration.
Additionally, depending on how you glue down your bones and artifacts, the bin can act as a great visual tool. You can have your kiddo scan for different objects. Even better, you can have your kids practice scanning for buried bones from left to right to assist with reading skills. If you too throw in a few hidden Mickeys they can scan for all the hidden Mickeys!
Vision skill-building possibilities are endless!!
Review: What Did the Kids Think?
As you probably already guessed, I personally loved this project. Call it therapy for me as I put it together, but I honestly thought it was pretty cool. While you too might find it therapeutic, none of that really matters if your kids don’t like the project.
Therefore, we are going straight to the source: my kids. If you’ve ever caught one of my stories on Instagram you know they are pretty darn honest. (Not following me yet? Let’s be friends! I can be found here @magic.for.miles.) They don’t hold back and tell it how it is. If they don’t like something, they aren’t afraid to vocalize it. I mean, what kid is?
Honest Kid Reviews of Operation Excavation Dinosaur:
5-Year Old Review: ‘I liked it! All the parts were my favorite. I liked the brushes and pretty much all of it and give it 1,000 stars. Probably would like to do it again.’ (I should also include that he said he couldn’t remember all the parts specifically. Yet, I don’t give this much weight because he also can’t remember what he at for breakfast ten minutes afterward.)
2-Year Old Review: As told through his interpreter- ‘I liked it, but I wish things weren’t glued down. I enjoyed trying to hank the glued down items up. I got a few free! It was glorious. I also liked playing in the ‘sand”.
There ya go! This one was a hit with both parties and really did buy me about 15 minutes of quiet time with the 5-year-old. However, I only got about 5-10 minutes out of the two-year-old. We will have to revisit it with him in the coming days.
Toys to Keep the Dinosaur Fun Going with Thoughts from an Occupational Therapist: How is the Toy Beneficial
Looking for ways to keep the dinosaur fun going? Yes? Whether it be from a sensory standpoint or just from a love of dinosaurs, keep reading. I’ve included a few of my favorite dinosaur-related items and their benefits.
My son was actually given dinosaur eggs similar to these for a gift one year. The goal of the project is the crack the eggs open, revealing a dinosaur inside. Kids use little tools to crack and brush away the egg. They were a hit! However, they are a little harder than they look to crack open. Having an adult helper on hand might be essential for this toy.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Dino Egg toy, be sure to click on the link found here or the picture listed below.
OT Verdict: Dino Eggs
From an occupational therapist perspective, these eggs are worth buying. They will encourage kiddos to work on bilateral coordination (both hands together) and increasing overall hand strength. It can be challenging to crack open the eggs! It’s good to do this on a surface that can help support to egg, preventing it from rolling away.
As mentioned above, the dino eggs might be a little outside of a ‘just right fit’ for your little one. Just be sure to start the eggs with an adult helping hands at first.
Dinosaur 3D Viewer
Who remembers the good ol’ 3D viewers from when they were a kid? They were the coolest. I had a View-Master and thought it was the bee’s knees. Seriously though.
Plus, you know it is (was?) a super cool toy because at the Primetime Diner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios uses them. The restaurant features its dessert menu on a View-Master.
OT Verdict: Dinosaur 3D Viewer
I actually love any type of viewfinder as an OT. Those things can be notoriously tough to push down at times. Yet, guess what? That extra resistance is awesome for strengthening little hands and fingers.
Therefore, it will be obvious that you are working on hand strengthening when you buy this toy. This means there will be no guilt when you hog the viewfinder to take a quick trip down memory lane. See? Developmentally appropriate and nostalgic!
Plus, in addition to hand strengthening, you are also working on hand separation. When using the viewfinder you will be separating the index finger from the rest of the hand as the lever is pressed down. Ultimately this is great for assisting with handwriting skills.
Disney Pixar’s Rex from Toy Story
Ah, Rex. He’s the classic, fearful, anxious dinosaur that we all love and can relate with on some level. Rex is a favorite around here. The version of Rex we have talks. Therefore, we get to hear lots of Rex’s anxious idiosyncracies. We are big fans of having Rex hang out around our house.
OT Verdict: Disney Pixar’s Rex from Toy Story
Rex is great for imaginative play. Even if your little one hasn’t seen Toy Story (1, 2, 3 or 4), Rex seems to ‘win’ hearts over. He can be used to help kiddos work on the social skills needed for taking turns. As a matter of fact, Rex can take turns excavating dinosaurs with your kiddo. Just don’t tell Rex how the dinos got there! It might make him a nervous-rex. You can find Rex here.
If you don’t want to get Rex, any other dinosaur would work as well. Again, just don’t tell Rex. You don’t want him to think he is getting replaced!!
Conclusion to Excavation Dinosaur
Whether you’ve been to the Bonesite: Dig Site or not, making your own dig site is probably going to be a hit. Especially for kiddo (or anyone for that matter!) who is a fan of dinosaurs. If you have questions on how to put the dig site together be sure to drop a message below or DM me on Instagram.
Want to find other ways to bring Walt Disney World magic home? You could bring home Peter Pan’s float from the Magic Kingdom or the Frozen Apple Cider Drink from Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. Check out the links here and here, respectively. There are lots of ways to bring Disney magic home!