Dinosaurs are taking over this summer! The Cincinnati Museum Center has a terrific dinosaur exhibit and accompanying Omnimax film. (If you're in the area, I recommend going. Pay once, and you can return as often as you like!) A little farther north, Kings Island amusement park's Dinosaurs Alive is the largest dinosaur park in the world, with over 60 life size dinosaurs! The Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky has boasted dinosaur exhibits for years, and I just heard on the radio that the Columbus Zoo is introducing dinosaurs this summer as well!
I wasn't sure my kids would be interested, but at a recent Cincinnati Reds game, there was a giant sand table where the kids could dig for fossils. (Show them a sand box, and they're GONE!) They also had two small animatronic dinosaurs that we could touch. We got a kick out of touching their leathery skin, and the kids loved feeling their teeth.
When my kids express an interest in something, I try to get my hands on books to reinforce their interest. We've learned a lot about outer space, the ocean, being a doctor, fire fighters and construction sites, because many of the books I bring home are nonfiction. (These books are all fiction, though, because those are harder to find and evaluate.)
So if your kids have been swept up in the dinosaur takeover, here are some books that we enjoy. And if they're not so much into dinos yet, but you're planning a dinosaur-related activity or trip, these books will start to get them interested in preparation for all that they'll see and do.
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Barton
Byron Barton's books are short, and the illustrations are plain, but my kids love them. This one is a good choice for bed time, but it also illustrates opposites. Another bonus: there are pictures of all the dinosaurs mentioned in the book, along with their names and a pronunciation guide on the front and back end sheets. This really helped when Natalie wanted to know the name of one tiny little dinosaur called compsagnathus and another called pachycephalosaurus (see how much we learn!).
How do dinosaurs say good night when Papa comes in to turn off the light? This is a fun, rhyming read that's also a good choice for bed time. And the illustrations are wonderful! After asking how dinosaurs say goodnight, the book poses hilarious questions about what dinosaurs (and children) might do. Do they cry, do they shout? Do they throw their teddy bear all about? My kids laugh when I act out the tantrums the dinosaurs have. At the end, though, the dinosaur gives a big kiss and hug, then says goodnight quietly. The first time I read this to my kids, they were both fighting bed time with some cry baby behavior. I pulled out the book in the middle of the living room and just started reading. They both dropped what they were doing to listen. We'll be purchasing this one.
If you remember Neil Sedaka's song Calendar Girl, you can sort of sing this book along to that melody. "I love I love I love my dinosaur pet. Yeah my dinosaur pet. I love I love I love my dinosaur pet, each and ever day of the year." My kids were politely paying attention to the book, but weren't really enthralled with it. Until I put the accompanying music CD in. They danced around like ecrazy people for the next half hour and asked me to restart it at least 10 times. Now we have the music track on our iPod, but we still haven't picked up the book again. So I'll recommend this book with reservations. Definitely get it free from the library before buying it.
Dinosaur Dig! by Dale
This is sort of a counting book, but it will be a hit with your construction site enthusiast. One dinosaur digging, digging dirt and rock. Dig, dig, dig. Two dinosaurs shoveling gravel. Clatter, clatter, clatter. And so it goes through 10 dinosaurs. Finally, when they're done, all ten dinosaurs are ready to SPLASH in the pool they made themselves. It was not super in love with this book, and it didn't hold either of my kids' attention the first time we read it. But Jack saw it lying on the ground one night and brought it to me. I read it with a little more gusto this time, and he was captivated. He kept pointing to the pictures and saying "digger!". We've read it at least three times in the last four days, so I give it two thumbs up.
This one is sort of a classic. It's a rhyming opposite book. Dinosaur BIG and dinosaur tiny. Dinosaur clean and dinosaur slimy. Dinosaur sweet and dinosaur grumpy. Dinosaur spikey and dinosaur lumpy. That last rhyme helped Natalie learn how to spot and ankylosaurus (she totally impressed the lady at the Musuem Center gift shop by pointing out several of the dinosaurs and correctly naming them). This is a quick book, easy and fun to read. The illustrations are cute. Get it from the library though, because unless your kids is REALLY into dinosaurs, this one could be outgrown pretty quick.
Harry and the Bucket Full of Dinosaurs by Whybrow
This is a sweet book about a boy who finds some old dinosaur toys in his grandma's attic. He gives them a bath and a home (dinosaurs don't like boxes, they like buckets... didn't you know?) before hauling out his dinosaur book and finding out what each one's name is. He takes the dinosaurs everywhere in their bucket, until in a moment of excitement, the bucket is left on a train. The next day, the boy visits the train's lost and found and asks about a bucket of dinosaurs. He's able to prove the dinosaurs are his by saying all the dinosaurs' names. I like this book, because Harry's imagination, curiosity and spirit remind me so much of Natalie. I did not, however, like it enough to buy it.