A Paleontologist’s Guide to Playing with Your Dinosaur-Obsessed Kid
The simplest way is take them on virtual field trips to museum’s fossil collections, like at the Smithsonian or at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. While you’re there, take a moment to share some fun dinosaur facts.
For instance, Johnson-Ransom is fond of telling kids that T. rex did not roar. “They didn’t have a larynx or a voice box like mammals do,” he said. Instead, they probably made a guttural sound like a bird, which Johnson-Ransom demonstrates by sucking in his gut, puffing up his chest and letting out a deep pigeon-like coo. “Think of a giant angry duck,” he said.
Ashley Hall, a paleontologist and author of “Fossils for Kids: A Junior Scientist’s Guide to Dinosaur Bones, Ancient Animals and Prehistoric Life on Earth,” has her own favorite piece of dinosaur trivia: “You are closer in time to T. rex than T. rex was to Stegosaurus.” The hulking herbivore lived some 150 million years ago while T. rex roamed the Earth around 66 million years ago. The time comparison gets kids thinking about how long dinosaurs ruled the world.
Hall was obsessed with dinosaur toys when she was a child. Her favorite was a pink Parasaurolophus, which is a duck-billed dinosaur with a long curving head crest. Years later, as an adult, Hall went on a fossil dig with a team from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and helped excavate the only known baby Parasaurolophus, which she affectionately named baby “Joe.”
“Keep your kids interested in dinosaurs” said Hall, who has a tattoo of a Parasaurolophus skull on her arm. “Paleontology is the gateway to science.”
Amy Atwater, a paleontologist at The Museum of the Rockies in Montana, suggests answering your child’s dinosaur questions with more questions of your own. That gets them thinking and helps them develop hypotheses and ways of testing their hunches. “Essentially you’re priming them for the scientific method, which is great for their future.”
Atwater loves to share fun facts, like how the T. rex had a mouth full of ferocious teeth and if it lost a tooth, one would grow back. On her museum tours, she shows children examples of actual fossilized T. rex teeth.