For Christmas this year, S got two very fun excavation kits. Despite them requiring many hours of work, she stuck with them and had a great time. I enjoyed them a lot, but they were a bit on the dusty side. I wanted to see if I could come up with an alternative that would be less dusty, that would also be easy to make at home. As an added bonus, our excavation is actually reusable! Score.
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Because an excavation like this requires a lot of patience and fine motor control, I'd only recommend it for ages 5 and up. You can make your excavation any size you'd like - the larger it is, the more time it will require.
I let S use a plastic knife, a chopstick, and a paintbrush to free each dinosaur skull. If you'd like to make it a little easier, you can always have an adult crack the excavation into smaller pieces using a kitchen mallet.
Though you can use any plastic toys in this excavation, I really liked this Dinosaur Skull TOOB because it comes with a key and S could match up the skull and learn a little about the dinosaur it came from.
To make your own Excavation, you'll need:
Liquid watercolors (optional)
Plastic disposable cup
A small container
Take a small container and line it with foil. Use the foil to sculpt any shape you'd like, but make sure there are no holes. The foil mold you make should be well-supported by the sides of the container. Add 2 cups Plaster of Paris (you can find this at craft stores and/or home improvement stores) and 1 cup play sand to another plastic disposable cup/container and stir until well combined. Add 1 1/2 cups water (add liquid watercolors to the water to color the plaster if you wish - here I added about a Tablespoon of magenta liquid watercolors) and stir until completely combined. Add a few toys to your foil mold, then pour some of the plaster mix. Continue layering the toys and plaster until all the plaster is used up. Throw out the disposable container that you used to mix the plaster (do NOT pour plaster mix down your drain). Allow your foil mold full of toys and plaster mix to air dry for 24 hours. After 24 hours, carefully peel away the foil and allow it to dry for an additional 24 hours. After that it is dry enough to begin excavating!
I strongly recommend having your child wear safety goggles just as a precaution. Getting a flying chunk of plaster in your eye is no fun. Also, please note that plaster dust is not good to breathe, which is one of the reasons I was a little disappointed in the dustiness of the storebought toys. Ours should not produce much dust, but if you do find it getting dusty, spray it down with a little water and that should take care of it.
To reuse your excavation, save up all the pieces of plaster your child breaks off. Place them in a strong plastic bag (we use a Ziploc Freezer bag) and have an adult crush them into powder using a hammer (I recommend doing this outside to cut down on plaster dust). Use this powder just as you would in the above recipe - add 1 1/2 cups water (or slightly less if you lost some of the plaster in the process) and you'll have a second new excavation after 48 hours!
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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children. As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family. I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.