Make your own prehistoric fun with a simple salt dough
Discovery Place Science
Most people hear the word “fossil” and think of dinosaurs, which is not wrong, but dinos do not represent the majority of fossils found by humans. In fact, fossils of seashells are most common.
A fossil is the remains of a once-living creature. When we discover them, these fossils provide us with invaluable evidence of the past. At Discovery Place we have many different fossils, including teeth, shells, coprolites (dinosaur feces) and fossilized plants.
Fossils can form when a creature dies and falls into the ocean, mud or even a tar pit. Over time, the body is covered in material and sediment. That sediment moves into the holes in the bones and begins to fill up the bones. The bones eventually decompose and break away and what is left is a cast of the bone. After a few million years, the ground shifts and the fossils are brought to the surface where they might be uncovered.
Using these fossils, we are able to learn about the creatures that roamed the Earth, like how far they traveled, what they ate and the conditions of the world that they lived in.
In this activity, we will make our own fossils out of common items found in the kitchen. One of the easiest ways to make a fossil is by using a salt dough, which is what we will be using today.
- Warm water
- Objects to fossilize like shells, toys, anything with a shape. You can even use a pencil or chopstick to carve your own unique design.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
- Combine the flour and salt in a bowl in a ratio of 1:4 (salt to flour) and mix well.
- Add warm water a Tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to come together.
- Use your hands to knead the dough until it forms a big ball.
- Pinch off dough and roll into balls in your hand.
- Flatten the dough balls until they are about 1/4-inch thick.
- Press object you want to make into a fossil into the dough to make an imprint. Make sure the imprint is deep but does not go through the dough.
- Put the fossils on a cookie sheet and bake for 90 minutes.
- Let cool and paint.