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Show preschooler dino-mite fall fun

David LaRochelle

"While the big kids in our home and neighborhood are already caught up in the excitement of school and fall sports, my preschooler is lost in the shuffle. What can I do to make this time special for him, too? He loves anything to do with dinosaurs," writes a mother of three from St. Paul, Minn.

Dinosaurs and kids are a perfect combination for fall fun. Dinosaurs cross the line between reality and fantasy, and that opens up lots of opportunities for imaginative play for the little tykes. Here are some fun, dino-mite things to do together:

Start with a visit to your neighborhood library. Look for some large picture books about dinosaurs and read them together. Some books have a glossary that tells you how to pronounce those long, funny-sounding names, like "tyrannosaurus rex," "brachiosaurus" and "triceratops." If your child is learning to write, have him or her practice with his or her own list of dinosaur names.

On another day, look at pictures of dinosaur bones and fossils, then go on a fossil hunt together through the woods, a park or along the seashore if you live near a beach. Collect sticks, acorns and interestingly shaped rocks and shells along the way while you search for fossils. If you don't find any real fossils, make your own when you get home using soft modeling clay. Roll the clay into a ball, and then flatten it out with your palm. Press small items you have collected into the clay to form an impression. If you're snacking on a peach or plum, use the pit to make an interesting fossil shape!

Top off your child's interest with a dinosaur-themed supper. Collect several plain brown grocery bags. Cut off the boxed end, and then cut out place mats from the remaining paper. Use dinosaur-shaped cookie cutters to trace several dinosaurs onto each place mat. Color them in with markers or crayons and decorate the edges with dinosaur stickers. At each setting at the dinner table, put a place mat, one of the homemade or found fossils and a toy dinosaur.


Write Donna with your questions and ideas at www.donnasday.com. Donna's latest book, "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families," is available in bookstores nationwide. © Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Syndicate