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Archaeologist Pretend Play

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Sometimes, the best dramatic play ideas are inspired by the natural interests and curiosity of each child. For example, while sorting, organizing, and downsizing some of my teaching materials that have been in storage, my oldest spotted some dinosaur skeleton models. He immediately opened them and began the building process. Later, he asked if he could hide the bones in our homemade sand table and pretend to be an archaeologist searching for bones.

My answer? Of course! And our Archeologist Pretend Play activity was born at our house.

(Note: I realize he was using the word "archaeologist" when he should be using the word "paleontologist", since this is a dinosaur skeleton activity shown in this blog post. I've addressed the vocabulary, but we still proceeded to use the dinosaur bones. We are moving on to human artifacts which is what archaeologists study. For the sake of not squashing his excitement, I let him continue to use the term and play with the dinosaur skeleton, but gently reminded him of the correct word.)

Archaeologist Pretend Play Idea for Kids--easy to set up with a sand sensory bin!

Jonah tends to be the kid that takes an idea and runs with it--making it bigger and better. He told me there was a Magic School Bus episode on Netflix that talked about an archaeologist, so we watched that again for inspiration. After that, he started gathering his materials and putting on khaki shorts--seriously. He was motivated for sure!

After he was dressed, he used masking tape to make a grid on our homemade sand table. I hid the plastic dinosaur bones in the grid squares for him.

Making an archaeology grid on a sand table for archaeologist pretend play

He started clearing away the sand and gently brushing the bones.

dusting off dinosaur bones in the sand table for archaeologist dramatic play activity

Once he found a piece of the dinosaur skeleton, he placed it on a basic grid sorting mat I had previously made.

sorting dinosaur bones on an archaeology grid

After finding all the dinosaur bones, he had to write the names of the bones on his clipboard archaeology dig log.

archaeology dig log

Lastly, he recreated the dinosaur using the bones he found.

triceratops bone modial

After Jonah had a turn, he hid the bones for Asher. This newly turned four year old used all of the tools, but he was much more interested in the sensory experience of playing archaeologist in the sand table. He did mimic his older brother and placed the bones on the grid.

preschool sand table play digging for dinosaur bones

We're going to read some more books about archaeologists and continue to pretend using this archaeologist dramatic play set up, replacing the dinosaur bones with human "artifacts", like broken painted pottery, since digging up dinosaur skeletons is technically a paleontologists job.

Archaeology Books for Kids

This post is a part of our Dramatic Play from A to Z series. Be sure to see the other creative dramatic play ideas for kids in this month long series!

Dramatic Play from A to Z series--26 days of ideas for costumes, props, and pretend play ideas for kids

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100 Screen-free Summer Activities for Kids | Happy Brown House

Thursday 31st of May 2018

[…] Pretend you are an archaeologist digging in the […]

Lucy Baker

Tuesday 1st of December 2015

My favorite part of this play experience was to read how Jonah was so excited to play archaeologist that he even changed into khaki shorts! It seems like you have an inquisitive little guy on your hands. Who knows, maybe this will even turn into his chosen career someday!

Sara McClure

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

Thank you Lucy! He was pretty fascinated with it!

Dramatic Play from A to Z | Happy Brown House

Sunday 6th of September 2015

[…] is for Archaeologist Pretend Play by Happy Brown […]


Thursday 3rd of September 2015

I love this!

Sara McClure

Thursday 3rd of September 2015

Thank you, Phyllis! It was a lot of fun!