Big Time Learning
Tags: dinosaurs, science, construction,
Posted: 2010-04-20 13:18:42 By: Joanne Oppenheim


There is so much that is unknown in the lives of young children. All those ‘whys’ they want explained. Perhaps dinosaurs are the biggest mystery they can sort of get their curiosity around. Mastering so many facts about these ancient beings satisfies their hunger for real information about the world—past and present. Of course, children have a hard time imagining a world before they themselves arrived on the scene. Certainly, the idea that such a world existed before there were any people in it is almost impossible for them to believe. In fact, even the toymakers can't seem to resist dropping a few cavemen into their dinosaur settings.

Whatever it is that sparks your child’s interest in dinosaurs, build on that curiosity with trips to a science museum and by bringing home books, videos, and toys that expand on their interest. A good many dinosaur toys are going to be enjoyed mostly for pretend, but you can extend their value with a few questions of your own. What if that T-Rex in the box was real? How big would it be? Get a tape measure and just for the fun of it check the house where you live. Would a real live T-Rex fit? How big would its footprint be? Measure that off. Would it be bigger than car? How heavy would that Triceratops be if it were stomping around the neighborhood? Would it weigh more than a bus? Two buses? Three?

You see, suddenly, all this wondering is turning into a need for some math and some thinking outside the toy box. Exciting kids imagination need not be just about pretend…turning them on to the wonder of the real world is part of the learning found in play.

You'll find lots of dinosaur award puppets, games, videos, books and puzzles by using the search button and your child’s age. Here are a few of the most recent books and toys that will satisfy the many interests of your budding paleontologists…




2009 Award
Monty Rex
(Playskool $70 Score: )

Despite his big teeth and ferocious roar, this fabric-covered dino made a huge hit with our preschool testers. Monty works by patting one of his touch points that will activate walking, roaring, chomping, etc. He not only roars, he sniffs and sneezes as he moves his head from side to side. He's one of those toys that may thrill or terrify...so you'll have to decide if this type of safe scare is right on target for your child--or whether this toy will end up at the back of some closet. Marked 3 & up, we think older kids will be more apt to enjoy this.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2009 Award
Playmobil Dinosaur Collection
(Playmobil $14.99 Score: )

There's a favorite dino for every one in this wonderful new line of prehistoric creatures. There's the Pteranodon ($14.99), a really impressive Brachiosaurus ($44.99), a fun Triceratops ($39.99) that comes with a baby, a green T-Rex with Velociraptors ($24.99) (that is sufficiently ferocious) and a Spinosaurus that comes with a dino next and two babies ($24.99). Each come with a variety of play pieces (caves/mountains, smaller dinos). We took off points for the people included in the sets. While the people are clearly of the "Jurassic Park" variety, it still seems unnecessarily to confusing to us to include them. Our testers also loved the smaller Dino Transporter Explorer Quad ($9.99).

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.




2009 Award
Lego Duplo Dino Valley
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score: ) Preschoolers who are into dinos will enjoy this new play setting that comes with a triceratops (and baby), a Pteranodon (and baby) and a T-Rex. While we believe the inclusion of cavemen is unfortunate, preschoolers will enjoy all of the pieces included in this set. We recommend that you can even discuss the historical inaccuracy. This is also true of the Playmobil dinosaur sets (although those people are dressed in modern clothes a la Jurassic Park or King Kong). In either case, it should be pointed out that most preschoolers are able to enjoy the ferociousness of dinosaurs because they are assured right from the start that dinos and man did not share this great planet at the same time! The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.




2008 Award
Lego Creator Stegosaurus
(Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99 Score: )

With 731 pieces, advanced builders can build three different ferocious dinosaurs. The lead creation, Stegosaurus, has armor fins, moving jaw, spiky tail and eyes that light up! This is a challenging set, not for beginners! Knock it down and you can build T-Rex or Pterodactyl. 9 & up. .

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2008. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2007 Award
Dinosaur Excavation Kit
(Usborne $17.99 Score: ) Archeologists in training will have fun digging out the bones of a T-Rex from the clay block. Complete with goggles*, brush, chisel, and hammer. Assemble the bones and read the book, which introduces beginning readers to the many kinds of dinosaurs. No glue included. *These goggles are not actually safety devices.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.




2007 Award
Prehistoric Planet Dinosaur Fossils T-Rex
(Toysmith $ Score: ) Much like their original sets, but now the pieces have a laminated design instead of plain wood. We tested the 40"-long T-Rex (watch out!). This is way too hard for 5s & up (as marked), but a good parent/child project. 9 & up. Still one of our favorites (but again needs parental help), B.C. Bones Empire State Building ($19.99 & up 4) one of a series of stunning wooden structures that includes the Eiffel Tower and Golden Gate Bridge. The company has updated their instructions, which we found to be an improvement but still not enough for the starting age on the box. (800) 356-0474.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2007.





2009 Award
(by Stephanie Stansbie/ illus. by Robert Nicholls, Little, Brown $19.95 Score: )

If you have a dinosaur lover on your gift list, here is a coffee table dinosaur book that will be enthralling. Designed with flip open charts that show the dinosaurs through their many ages,  a world map showing where they were found, and may other lift up flaps, this is handsomely illustrated. It is full of small digestible factoids that kids like, and has a life size foot print tucked in at the end. 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2003 Award
Dinosaurs Big and Small
(by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld/illus. by Lucia Washb, HarperCollins $15.95 Score: ) A smart new addition to the excellent Let's Read and Find Out series. Comparing the size of dinosaurs to things that children know in the real world adds to the wonder of their size and variety. Told in child-friendly language, this is a book that will not overwhelm a young listener or reader. 4–7.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2003.


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