Days of the Dinosaurs Party

Give your birthday child a party fun enough to go down in history -- prehistory, that is! These ideas are best for ages 3 to 8.


Inviting Ideas

Here are some ideas for making your own invitations to convey a dinosaur theme:

Enlarge Image Give your dinosaur hunter a Jurassic birthday.
  • Use kids' stationery that is decorated with dinosaurs or fossils. If you live near a natural-history museum, chances are the gift shop has a unique selection of dinosaur cards.
  • Have your child draw a picture of a dinosaur, caveman, erupting volcano, and jungle. Scan it into your computer (or take it to a local printing shop to scan it for you), and size it to fit onto card stock. Print the party information inside in bold block letters.
Decorations
  • Make no-sew caveman costumes for guests. Buy inexpensive animal-skin-print fabric (for a summer party) or fake fur remnants (for a winter fete) and thick rope or cording from your local fabric store. Use your child for a pattern; cut pieces to be about twice the distance from child's head to knees. For furs, cut a hole in middle so it drapes down front and back, trim and tie with a rope at waist. For animal prints, drape and tie over one shoulder (like a toga) and secure with rope at waist.
  • Play Flintstones music. There is also a great children's singing duo called Trout Fishing in America (that's really their name) that has some very funny dinosaur songs. Their tapes can be found in upscale book and music stores.
  • Use chalk to make dino prints and caveman drawings on the driveway or path to your door. If you can't use chalk, then try making some construction-paper prints.
  • Hang large pieces of butcher paper and let guests make "caveman" drawings with chalk or markers. Be sure to protect the floor underneath the artists.
  • Decorate with big rocks and ferns. You can use wide green crepe paper to cut out fern leaves if you don't have access to live ones. Large paper bags can be taped closed, slightly crumpled, and painted with grey, black, and white streaks to resemble boulders.
  • Make a working volcano (see Crafts page). Put dry ice in center to create the effect of steam escaping.

From the bhg.com Recipe Center, we've pulled together four kid-friendly menus that can be served at any birthday bash:

All-Munchies Menu

Classics with a Twist Menu

Hearty Bites Menu

Ultimate Favorites Menu

Dinosaur Bites

For delicious food that ties into the party theme, try these suggestions:

  • Pterodactyl chicken wings. Use whole wings instead of drummettes. Wash wings and dry. Hold onto wing tips and spread them so they look like they're flying. Dip wings in barbecue sauce and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees F. Turn wings carefully and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. You can make these ahead and reheat in a 200-degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Volcano chocolate cake. Bake three or four layers of round cakes. Frost between layers and stack. Use a knife to cut the layers into an inverted cone shape. Frost outside with chocolate frosting. Chill for one hour. Sprinkle cake with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and broken red lollipop pieces. Pour strawberry ice cream shell topping (the kind that hardens when it comes in contact with cold) down the sides of the cake.

Choose two or three relatively calm activities for a two-hour party. Have a few extra ideas ready just in case. Alternate crafts and other sit-down activities with active games to keep the pace of the party moving.

Transitional Activity

Reading is great between activities such as a game and cake time. It can be used to keep children occupied while a parent sets out the tableware and cake. Also, reading can be effective at the end of the party, when children are waiting for their parents to arrive. Some suggestions:

  • Dinosaur Valley by Mitsuhiro Kurokawa (Chronicle Books, 1997)
  • Dazzle the Dinosaur by Marcus Pfister (North South Books, 2000)
  • Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast: Dinosaur Poems by Jack Prelutsky (Mulberry Books, 1999)
  • Dinosaur Roar by Paul Stickland (Dutton, 1998)
Crafts

Set up a craft activity so each guest can start working immediately as they arrive; it's a good way to corral the excitement in a positive way.

Prehistoric Edible Ooze

Ages: 2 and up

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Playing time: 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Chocolate pudding
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Strawberry or red-raspberry jam
  • Crushed chocolate cookies
  • Jelly beans and/or dinosaur-shaped candy
  • Plastic spoons

Before the party:

1. Make chocolate pudding. If desired, half-fill clear plastic cups with pudding to set. Or make in large bowl and divide into servings at party.

2. Crumble chocolate cookies into pieces.

At the party:

3. Scoop mud (pudding) into clear plastic cups.

4. Let children top their mud with dirt (crushed cookies), lava (jam), dinosaurs (candy), and dinosaur eggs (jelly beans).

Erupting Volcano

Ages: 2 and up

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Clean, tall baby bottle or similar tall, thin jar
  • 6 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Red and green food coloring
  • Cookie sheet (optional)
  • Play dough (see recipe below)

Before the party:

1. Make or purchase enough play dough so that each guest will have a small ball with which to help form the volcano.

2. Mix the white vinegar with a few drops of red food coloring.

At the party:

3. Explain to the children that as molten lava from the Earth's center spews out from a volcano onto the ground, it cools and becomes new land. Some people believe that the dinosaurs may have been killed off by tremendous volcanic eruptions that covered the Earth.

4. Place the bottle in the center of a table or on a cookie sheet (for easy cleanup). Give each child a ball of play dough and let each child help mold play dough around the bottle to form a mountain shape. Children can also poke holes to put on "rocks" or pinch dough to make trees.

5. When the bottle is hidden except for the top rim, and the volcano is decorated, spoon at least 1/3 cup baking soda into the mouth of the bottle.

6. To make the volcano "erupt," slowly pour vinegar into the bottle until it froths out. You can make it erupt several times by pouring the vinegar in again after each eruption subsides.

Play Dough

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: This recipe makes enough for up to 8 children to build one large volcano.

What you need:

  • 1-1/2 cups salt
  • 3 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 9 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 9 cups flour
  • Food coloring as desired

Before the party:

1. Place salt, flour, and cream of tartar in bowl and stir to mix. Slowly add oil and half the water, and mix. If using the entire batch for the volcano, add green food coloring and the rest of the water. Otherwise, add water only.

2. Knead until dough is formed. For volcano, form dough into balls and store covered in plastic wrap. For other uses, divide dough into quarters and knead a few drops of food coloring into each hunk. Then store, covered in plastic.

At the party:

3. Continue with Step 4 of Volcano project, above. Or put out multicolored dough along with pictures of dinosaurs and fossils, and let children fashion their own creations.

Plan two or three lively activities for a two-hour party. Choose extra so you're prepared for the unexpected. Alternate them with quieter activities, such as a crafts project or reading aloud, to keep the party from becoming too wild.

Tyrannosaurus-by-the-Tail Tag

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: None

Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes

Players: At least 6

1. Have the children form a line with their hands on each other's shoulders or waists.

2. When you say "Go," the child at the front of the line tries to catch and tag the child at the back. Meanwhile, the child at the back tries to avoid being tagged. The whole group must stay connected the whole time.

3. When the child at the back is caught, he or she goes to the front, and the child who was first becomes the second in line. Play enough rounds so that everyone has a chance to be the leader.

Hot Lava Tug of War

Ages: 3 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: 6 or more

What you need:

  • Old sheets twisted into a rope (easier on little hands)
  • Water-soluble red paint (for playing on grass or concrete) or a small red blanket

Before the party:

1. Mark the "lava" area, making it 2 to 3 feet wide. You can either paint the area red or spread out a small blanket.

At the party:

2. Divide the guests into two teams ("Herbivores" and "Carnivores" or "Stegosauruses" and "Tyrannosauruses").

3. Line up teams on either side of the lava. Explain that the object of the game is to try to stay out of the hot "lava"!

4. Position the middle of the rope in the middle of the "lava" and hand the ends to the two teams. Younger players may need some coaching about how to pull as a team, and the very youngest players may need an adult "anchor" on each team.

5. When the game begins, each teams tries to pull the other team across or into the "lava." Play two or three rounds.

Fossil Hunt

Ages: 2 and up

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

Enlarge Image Players can search for dino eggs like these.
  • Large plastic eggs
  • Rawhide bones from pet-food store
  • Other fossilized stones as desired; inexpensive fossils are often available at natural-history museum gift shops
  • Small prizes to hide in eggs, or prizes to give out at the end
  • Collection bags or baskets
  • Blankets, card tables, potted plants, paper bags, cardboard dinosaurs, and other decorations (see Step 1, below)

Before the party:

1. If desired, create a "Jurassic hunting area" with caves (constructed from blankets and tables), ferns and other plants, big paper-bag boulders, painted cardboard dinosaurs, and other decorations.

2. Hide all of the eggs or bones (or you can do this while children are occupied with another activity). If you have a wide range of ages, you may want to make an area where the items are easier to find, and give children boundaries for hunting based on their age. Count the number of items you hide so you will know when the game is over.

At the party:

3. Give each guest a bag, tell them what they're looking for, and send your paleontologists on their way.

4. When all (or most) items have been collected, items may be traded in for a prize or perhaps for a "super sleuth paleontologist" certificate or award.

Extinction

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: At least 4; larger numbers are even more fun.

Before the party:

With your child, choose a place where he or she will hide; the space must be large enough for all of the guests. (But smallish spaces, like a closet, are the most fun.) If this game sounds familiar, you may know it as "sardines."

At the party:

1. The birthday child hides. He or she is "the first dinosaur to become extinct."

2. One guest goes in search of the "missing dinosaur." When the discovery is made, they wait together to be found by the next player.

3. One at a time, each child searches for the players who have already disappeared. (An adult may need to remind the children in hiding to be quiet while each new child searches.)

4. Continue until everyone has found the hiding place.

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