A Roaring Good Time – DIY Dino Crafts

Summer Dino Crafts

Craft ideas are the perfect activities for prehistoric playtime with your preschooler or your next party or playdate. Check them out – then do it up, dino style. Can you dig it?

 Make Your Own Dino Fossils!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Batch of salt dough (our favorite recipe is below – you can prepare it ahead of time, but your kids might like to help you mix and knead!)
  • Small plastic dinosaurs
  • Baking pan
  • Oven

What To Do:

  1. Divide your pre-made salt dough into 2-3” balls
  2. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until oval-ish
  3. Press a dinosaur into each flat oval firmly, to make a clear impression, then carefully remove the dinosaur
  4. Bake at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours

And Then…

  • Bury the dough in the backyard or sandbox and go on your own archaeological expedition and use kid-safe tools to dig the dough dinos up and use paintbrushes to dust them clean
  • Paint them and keep them as treasures
  • Research the name and some fun dino facts about each one

*Older kids will love excavating and assembling a complete dino skeleton with our GeoSafari Dino Digs kits!

GeoSafari Dino Digs

Salt Dough Recipe

  1. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of salt with 1 cup of flour
  2. Press a hole in the mixture and pour in ½ cup of water
  3. Knead until smooth and shape into a ball (add more water if needed)
  • Store in a baggie or air-tight container


Design Your Own Dino-Mite Mask!

What You’ll Need:


What To Do:

  1. Color the mask template to reflect your own personal Dino-style!
  2. Cut out the mask, including cutting out the eyeballs and string holes
  3. Cut a piece of elastic string that fits around your head and string it through the side holes, securing with a knot

And Then…

  • Put on a dino show
  • Surprise your sister, brother, and friends


DIY Branchiosaurus!

What You’ll Need

What To Do:

  1. Cut your toilet paper tube in half and cut a 1” slit at both sides of the top of both pieces of your tube—these are your Branchiosaurus’ legs.
  2. Show your child the image below; print this Brachiosaurus outline or have him draw the same outline on a horizontal sheet of white construction paper; and help him cut it out.
  3. Paint or color your Branchiosaurus however you’d like! Cut circles or stripes from your construction paper and glue them on. Don’t forget the eyes, smile, and toenails!
  4. When dry, slip the body into the slits on the TP tube legs and… voila!

And then…

  • Make more TP dinos! Try a T. rex or a Stegosaurus with cut-out construction paper spikes.
  • Put on a dino play!

DIY Branchiosaurus

Crown Yourself King of the Dinos!

What You’ll Need:


What To Do:

  1. Color the mask template to reflect your own personal Dino-style!
  2. Carefully cut out both pieces of the mask
  3. Glue or tape one side of the band to the front piece and wrap around your head. Glue or tape the other side at the appropriate spot and cut off any remainder.

And Then…

  • Crown yourself king or queen of the Dinos
  • Put on a dino show
  • Surprise your sister, brother, and friends


Dino Diorama!

What You’ll Need:

What To Do:

Take a walk around the block or hit the park to collect the natural materials above

  1. Cut off the front, wide panel and top flaps of your box
  2. Use your paints to decorate the inside walls of your box to look like a dinosaur scene. Consider including trees, skies, and sunsets.
  3. Use your natural “props” to design a dino environment. Place your dirt/sand first, then add your rocks and leaf “trees”.Use your Playfoam to make mountains, streams, or lakes.
  4. Set up the plastic dinos and Dino Construction Vehicles and PLAY!





DIY Storybook Summer Camp Week 2: Becoming the Storyteller

DIY Storyteller Camp

In the second part of our Storybook camp series, your little ones will start putting on their OWN storytelling hats! This week, we’ll help your child hone new skills and leverage fun tactics to tell their own original stories. We’ll teach you how to use story cubes, story stones, sticker stories, and more!

Set the scene

Every story follows a recipe and pattern, which include characters, a setting, and problem, followed by a solution. Discussing the elements of a story with your child is a wonderful way to strengthen reading comprehension and develop ideas of their own. Let’s get those creative ideas brewing with these activities that promote story elements!

Monday: Story cubes

Every storyteller should start with choices. This allows children to play around with endless creative possibilities and story scenarios. Use our Story Cube download to introduce possible characters, settings, and problems that can be paired up together. The solution is up to your child’s imagination! Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. Once you’ve downloaded and printed your Story Cubes, have your little one color them.
  2. Then, follow the guides to cut, fold, and glue your cubes.
  3. Have your child roll each cube to determine the elements of a new story.storycube
  4. Now—the REALLY fun part. It’s time to fill in the story details using the character, setting, and problem that were rolled. Here are some story starters to get those little minds working:
    – Once there was a ___
    – In a land, far, far away______
    – It was a sunny day when_____

Tuesday: Story stones

Now that you’ve gathered fresh ideas from your story cubes, you can paint your characters, settings, and other scenes on these super story stones!  It’s art meets language arts with these wonderful sensory tools. Your child can easily manipulate the order of storyelements, and can add more components if needed. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Smooth, flat stones
  2. Paint brushes
  3. Variety of acrylic paints
  4. Varnish or acrylic sealer

What to do:

  1. Gather smooth, flat stones that have enough space to paint on them. Local craft stores also sell decorative stones that are perfect for this project!


  1. Clean your stones with a slightly damp washcloth.
  2. Brainstorm different story elements that are special to your child, and have your child lightly sketch pictures on each stone.
  3. To make your pictures more vivid, we recommend painting with white acrylic paint first.


  1. Allow white paint to dry, and then apply COLOR!
  2. Once your story stones are beautifully painted, put them to use by rearranging them in a different order each time to tell a whole new story!


Get off that block!

Children often have a hard time generating and developing ideas, and find themselves in a “Writer’s Block.” These activities will help ignite your child’s imagination.

Wednesday: Sticker story bag

Stickers come in all shapes and sizes and are super easy to use. They are a great way to spark new ideas while having fun with the structure of a story. Sticker stories allow your little storyteller to fill in some juicy details to the beginning, middle, and end. Here’s how:

  1. Place a bunch of stickers in a bag. Stickers must include a mix of people, places, and things. Have your storyteller pick several stickers out of the bag, and then choose the order in which each sticker will be introduced.
  2. Place stickers on a white piece of paper. Your child may dictate their story to you as you record, or they may illustrate the details around the stickers.
  3. Use your child’s sticker story as a way to reinforce left-to-right tracking and how a story flows.


Thursday: Mix up fiction with non-fiction!

Children can gather inspiration for stories by reliving special moments in their life! Tell a tale that has magical elements mixed in with your child’s real memories. Here’s how:

  • On a piece of paper, have your child make a list or draw pictures of the special people, places, or things in their life.
  • Brainstorm together some special moments shared with those people, places, and things.
  • Discuss the magical elements that are often added to fairy tales. Revisit some of the tales that you read in week 1 of our Story Book Camp
  • Now, let’s mash up some of these real elements and magical ingredients!Choose one real memory to retell, and then insert a magical or fanciful moment into that retelling. What what would happen if a magical fairy or fiery dragon appeared in your story?

Time to publish!

The best way to celebrate a young author’s story is to publish their piece of work! Here area few unique ways to treasure each fantastic story:

Friday: Comic strips and story magnets!

Comic strips add excitement and allow children to add action and basic dialogue to each scene. Each box provides storytellers with space to bring their stories to life with illustrations.  Download our comic strip template here!


Once you create your comic strips, you have to show them off!  Your little storyteller can cut out scenes from each of the comic strips and turn them into magnets. For added creativity, post these story magnets on your refrigerator so your child can easily rearrange the story over and over again!

What you’ll need:

  • Scissors
  • Clear contact paper or clear packing tape
  • Adhesive magnet strips


 step1 Step 1: Gather your materials and clippings of your child’s story
 step2 Step 2: Cover the front and back with clear packing tape as a laminate and trim the edges.
 step3 Step 3: Cut 2 strips of adhesive magnet and stick to the back.
 step4 Step 4: Display story magnets for more storytelling fun!


My story:

Janene Russell is a Product Development Associate at Educational Insights. As a former 3rd grade teacher, Janene’s classroom was often filled with tall tales, mystical far-off lands, and flying creatures. These imaginative stories inspired her to dream big and to create “out of this world” products.



EI’s DIY Summer Camp: Book It On Over!

DIY Storybook Camp

Let’s Tell a Story!

Welcome to week one of EI’s DIY Storybook Summer Camp! This week’s fun-filled, at-home activities utilize beloved stories to sneak in some summertime learning. After all, from snuggling close at bedtime to huddling around a campfire, children love to listen to a well-told tale! Storybook Camp is a great way to engage kids in activities that foster imagination and creativity while developing important skills including confidence, listening skills, vocabulary, early math, science, and more.


We’re kicking off camp with Three Little Pigs!  Download the story and then…

Activity One: Blow Painting!Read the story aloud! Be sure to utilize some of the 7 storytelling tips at the end of this blog.

Activity Two: All Kinds of Houses! Download our template to make your own adorable Three Little Pigs puppets and props, including the pigs, their homes, the Big Bad Wolf, and more! Simply follow the directions on the templates and have your little artist color to create stick or finger puppets. You’re now ready to use your props to reenact the story! Encourage your child to take the lead in the retelling while the two of you follow along with your puppets.


Today, we’ll dig more deeply into the story of the Three Little Pigs through fun activities that cover math, language arts, AND science! Start by downloading our activity sheet, which includes:

Activity One: Three’s the Charm! Focus on the number 3—consider starting with familiar friends like the three little pigs, the three billy goats gruff, or Goldilocks and the three bears. Draw pictures of three of the same thing. Look for the number and objects in groups of three at home and outdoors.

Activity Two: Huff, puff, and blow your own painting! Follow our instructions for a Three Little Pigs-style blow-painting party!

Activity Three: Could you build a house with bricks? How about peanut butter? Encourage language arts skills by brainstorming and discussing different types of potential construction materials—from serious to silly.

Not ready to call it a day?  Even more fun ideas await on our Three Little Pigs Activity Sheet.



Time for a new tale! Download Goldilocks and the Three Bears and then…

Activity One: Read the story aloud.  Want to be a superstar storyteller?  Look for tips at the end of this blog post!

Activity Two:  Get ready to put on a show! Download our template for fun, printable masks featuring Goldilocks and each of the three bears. Have your little one color and decorate the masks to represent each character’s personality (and your child’s own sense of style). Then, put on the masks and act out the story together!



Who’s ready for more learning fun that is “just right”?  Download our Goldilocks activity sheet to begin!

Activity One: A Question of Character or manners? Using Goldilocks’ behavior in the story as a discussion sparker, ask your child the character-based questions outlined in the activity sheet, and then discuss. Then, have your child pretend to write a letter to the Three Bears from Goldilocks explaining her behavior—what would she say?

Activity Two: Is your child Size Wise? Using the activity in the download as a starting point, have your little one sort, compare, and contrast differently sized objects that you collect around the house.

Activity Three: Bear Necessities! Read a simple non-fiction book about bears. Have your child compare and contrast real bears with the bears in the Goldilocks story.

Activity Four: Texture time! Too soft?Too hard? Have your little one explore the textures around your house, looking for things that are soft, hard, rough, smooth, etc.

Activity Five: Keep it sweet. Follow our recipe to make your own delicious Bear Claw Treats—perfect to enjoy after a fun-filled day of activities!


Bridges, and trolls, and goats…oh my! Our last tale for this week is the Three Billy Goats GruffAnd yes, we have even MORE story-based learning activities for you and your little one to enjoy.

Activity One: Read the story aloud.

Activity Two: Rearrange the story and tell your own version using our adorable downloadable and colorable story stick template!

Activity Three: Use math vocabulary and science skills to build your own bridges, just like the one in the story, in our Building Bridges activity! Download the activity sheet here.

Activity Four: Yearning for some sweet green grass of your own?  Help your little one learn about plant growth by growing grass from seed, following the instructions in our Growing Grass activity!

Activity Five:  Fact or fiction time! Do some online research or hit the library for some factual information about goats in our Getting to Know Goats activity.

Activity Six: “G” is for goat…and “great.” Encourage your child to draw pictures of things that begin with the letter “g.”

And yes, there’s more!  Check out our activity sheet for even more fun to take you into the weekend.

PLUS, don’t forget to join us for week two of our DIY Summer Camp, beginning June 22nd!  For part two of our Storybook Camp series, your little ones will start putting their OWN storytelling hats on!

We’ll leave you with our sevensage storytelling tips:

  1. Keep the age and experience of your audience in mind, choosing a story with appropriate length and complexity. Little ones will appreciate the three s’s: simple, short, and straightforward.

  2. Keep the age and experience of your audience in mind, choosing a story with appropriate length and complexity. Little ones will appreciate the three s’s: simple, short, and straightforward.

  3. Determine your setting.

  4. Provide a short introduction to the story before you begin.

  5. Use gestures, facial expressions, and sound effects.

  6. Speak loudly and clearly, and don’t rush.

  7. Vary your voice, tone, and pitch. Pause for effect.

  8. Involve your listeners. Have them chime in on story elements like repetitive phrases, or rhyme completion, or sound effects. And of course, have fun!

My Story
Marcia Gresko leads the Product Development team at Educational Insights. Before joining EI more than 17 years ago, she was a teacher for 15 years. While Marcia is new to the blogosphere, she is the author of more than 20 children’s books on a variety of non-fiction topics, from castles to Komodo dragons.

This Summer, Play Your Way to School Readiness! Simple Tips to Get Kids Ready for Kindergarten

Free Worksheets for summer learning

Woo hoo! It’s summer! Time for fun in the sun, trips to the zoo, and family vacations. But boy, can time fly, and September will be here before you know it. Below are some simple—and fun—things you can do over the summer to help prepare your child for Kindergarten.

Work It Out

Download our FREE summer math and ‘getting ready to read’ packets, which offer perfect practice for preschoolers preparing to enter Kindergarten. With 24 pages of fun readiness activities, there’s plenty of learning to last all summer long. And if your kids love learning with these pages, be sure to check out our selection of interactive Hot Dots® Jr. storybooks and card sets to take learning fun to the next level!

M0838 Math Worksheets_Page_01 M0838 Math Worksheets_Page_02
Click HERE to download our FREE Summer math packet

Reading Worksheet Page 1 Reading Worksheet Page 2
Click HERE to download our FREE Summer ‘getting ready to read’ packet.

Play It Out

Play, Play, Play! Set up playdates with kids your child’s age and trade off locations. This will not only help your child learn to interact with others, but also get him comfortable with being away from you. Story time at the library and music and movement classes at the park are also great ways to get your child used to being in a group setting. Be sure to provide plenty of toys and activities to keep little ones engaged—Magic Moves® Jammin’ Gym is a great way for kids to play together and release some energy, too!

Take Turns! Eager to never hear the words “I saw it first!” or “It’s mine!” ever again?  Help your child learn how to share and socialize by teaching them by example.  Play a board game like Kitten Caboodle, emphasizing “my turn” vs “your turn”, or trade off on the swings to practice taking turns and sharing.

Follow Instructions! Give your child a simple instruction and make sure she follows through. Then try two- or three-part instructions like “Please take your shoes to your room, put your socks in the laundry basket, and pick out a book you’d like to read.”

Act It Out! Slip some “first day” practice into playtime by acting out your child’s first day of school. Use stuffed animals or puppets like Puppet-on-a-Stick™ to represent the teacher and the students, and show your child what to expect.

Learn, Learn, Learn!

Learn Those Letters! Sing the alphabet song and look at letters on paper. Your child’s name is a great place to start but there are letters everywhere! Point them out in storybooks, road signs, and at the grocery store. Talk about the sounds each letter makes. “S, ssss…., S is for Star!”

Count It Out! Help your child learn to count to 20. You can count the Cheerios in his snack, the stairs up to the library, or the action figures in his toy chest. Then show him the numbers 1-10 and help him learn to identify each one and match it to the correct quantity.

Shape Up! Help your child identify basic shapes like circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. Search the house for items of each shape, identify them, and try drawing them. Take a walk around your neighborhood and point out shapes you see – rectangular doors, square car windows, circular wheels. Games like Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco are also a great way to practice matching geometric shapes to real-world shapes.

Read, Read, Read! Listening to a story hones concentration and focus skills as well as increasing vocabulary. Read together for just 15-20 minutes a day – then be sure to ask your child about the story they just heard. What was it about? What happened at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end? Our Hot Dots Jr. Interactive Storybook Sets are a wonderful way to get kids excited about reading and practice key Kindergarten concepts. There are also some wonderful books all about the first day of Kindergarten that can help ease your child’s fears and illustrate what she can expect. We especially love First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.

Hot Dots® Jr. Princess Fairytales Interactive Storybook Set

Move That Body!

Gross Motor Skills! Make sure your child gets plenty of outdoor play time. Practice bouncing, throwing, catching, and kicking a ball. Run races. Hop, skip, and jump.

Fine Motor Skills! Afternoon quiet time is a great time to practice fine motor skills. Squishing, squashing, squeezing, and shaping molding substances like Playfoam®, stringing beads, and putting puzzles together are all great ways to develop fine motor skills.


Block Play! The benefits of blocks are nearly endless. In addition to developing motor skills, they also introduce important early math, science, and engineering concepts and encourage creativity and imagination.

Incorporating these simple, but crucial, activities into your summer days will go a long way toward preparing your preschooler for Kindergarten!