Saturday, July 6, 2013

Notes From A Dino-Maniac

Readers often ask for details on my projects and I am always happy to share what I know.
Here's a list of things I learned - both the hard and the easy way - as I bumbled along in pursuit of a backyard dinosaur egg hunt for my twin four year old grandsons. See Hunters and Gatherers for the full story.

The "life-size" egg laying dinosaur!.....

Life size? Well, I wish! She might have been if I'd been allowed to keep going and going and going....but alas, grandpa stepped in and asked -as gently as possible!-  if I realized the monster would never fit out the door - (think he might be afraid of the ferocious roar of an unhappy grand-dino? I do!). We carefully eased her out of the house and into the garage, amputating a limb as we went along. After that, it was easy sailing....if you don't mind parking in the driveway for six weeks or enduring the attention of neighborly gawkers!

See this post for basic paper mache instructions. The dino was built the same way, however I envisioned her as a "costume" for my grandsons. She was constructed over two large boxes with openings cut into the tops. There was space above for the boys' heads and a cut out window so they could look out. The completed structure was too heavy to be supported by children of that age even though all newspaper was removed from the shell. It is, however, usable when they want to crawl inside and issue mighty roars to frighten unsuspecting curiosity seekers!

Finished size is 9' long (4' tail included) x 4.5' tall, crouching.

If you are crazy enough to try making one, then I am crazy enough to help you! If you run into problems, email me.

Dinosaur eggs......

Seriously, if I were asked to name three things I'd bring along to a deserted island, I'd choose newspaper, flour, and a bucket. The water would be free, I presume. From those supplies I'd make myself a paper mache house and plenty of furniture to fill it. After I became bored reading old news by the fireplace - oops! never mind! - no fireplace! I'd make myself a sturdy little canoe and float away from it all. Such is the trust I have in the craft of paper mache! Any problem you have....solved!

Here's how I made eight dino eggs ranging in size from 10" to 16":

1. Bunch up newspaper to size and shape desired. Use masking tape to hold it together.
2. Tear newspaper strips about 3" wide, dip them into a bucket of paste made from flour and water and cover entire egg, slightly overlapping each strip - two or three layers total.
3. Dry on plastic bags so they don't stick and can be easily turned over during the process. Usually one day is enough time, two at the most.
4. When shell is hard, use a serrated kitchen knife to cut egg in half. Pull newspaper stuffing out to hollow the egg.
5. Insert candy and prizes. (See main post for ideas) Close egg along seam line and secure with two or three strips of newspaper dipped in flour paste. Dry. Spray paint to finish.
6. Supply the kids with plastic toy tools to open their eggs.

The Table......

For a rich, jungle atmosphere, I made a newspaper pattern of my 44" x 58" oval kitchen table. I traced and cut it out on "Tropical Foliage" bulletin board paper. Both Hobby Lobby and Michael's carry this item in the teacher's supply section. Cover table. Top with a smaller piece of well cleaned glass. Food can be placed directly on the surface. Set paper dinosaur print plates on wicker chargers and arrange them around the perimeter so guests can graze from the assortment. Drape a raffia table skirt around the chandelier to create an enclosure.

The Volcano......

This was made with an 8.5" glass vase and an 8.5" long flashlight that will fit inside of it. Cut strips of 5" flames from red, yellow, and orange tissue paper. Secure them around the light end with a rubber band. Boil baking variety potatoes, mashing and seasoning them, but omitting butter or milk. When potatoes have cooled to an easy handling state, firmly press handfuls all around the vase  - tapered with widest at the bottom. Just before guests arrive turn the flashlight on and insert into vase.

Grove of trees.......

Make bread sticks in varying lengths and thickness from packaged dough or your own recipe. Poke holes into a slab of Styrofoam and insert foil wrapped ends of bread sticks. Cut leaves from green tissue paper. Tie them to tops of sticks with raffia strands. If bread sticks do not stand up well, insert wooden skewers next to them and tie together with raffia.
Cover base with tissue grass.

The Eats......

I like to serve meatballs for an event like this because they double as convincing boulders in the landscape. Blanched broccoli heads make great ground cover, and both items enjoy being served with a side of breadsticks. I offered a home made tomato sauce too. Was tempted to drizzle the sauce down the sides of the volcano but decided not to press my luck! I went around the table and ladled it as requested.

Puff pastry strips cut to 1" x 9" and stretched a bit as you fold each end into a knot make T-rific bones! Bake per package directions. Lay a bone or two on each plate before guests arrive. Remember these for Halloween!

Pile up extra bread sticks wherever there's room for them.

The tar pit is simply an instant chocolate pudding recipe spooned smoothly into a shallow serving dish. Wilton bone shaped sprinkles are available during Halloween season.

I found the rocks at and ordered both a bag of "pebbles" and "boulders" in gold. Not only were these unbelievably real looking and tasty, but the company offers outstanding customer service. Immediate shipping, email notification, and a very generous sized free gift of candy are all included!


The table top dinosaurs are sold at Toys R Us for $10 each. They are part of the "Animal Planet" collection and are a perfect size (12" tall x 20" long T-Rex) for an event like this. Not only that, but the boys couldn't claim and snatch them up fast enough! Besides the T-Rex, a Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and Brachiosaurus are part of the family. I bought two T-Rexes "just in case" and sure enough! - good old grandma instinct prevailed again- the second one needed to come thundering out in a hurry! Stegoes can be shared, but every little boy needs his own T-Rex!

Sippy-saurus cups - $2 each in the beverage aisle of my grocery store - also available in red. Saw them online for almost five times that. Yikes! Not cool!

Safari helmets - $2 each at a local party store, but Dollar Tree carries them seasonally in a light tan color and they are much sturdier - for, of course, half the price! The "fearless hunter" badges were home made with a large paper punch and a dinosaur stamp.

Finally....My wish is that my grandsons will not only remember our dinosaur egg hunt with fondness, but that they will enjoy learning more about these fascinating creatures. After much research I found two wonderful books, Amazing Dinosaurs printed by DK Publishing and Dinosaurs from the "Sounds of the Wild" series by Maurice Pledger. The boys have seen the books and absolutely love them, but I intend to make my own bookplates before I give them back as gifts. Each book will have a Dinosaur Day photo of the boys and a personal message from grandma, reminding them of how they bravely saved her from a prehistoric encounter of the most terrifying kind!

Here's where you'll find product details and /or ordering info on both those exciting books in my Amazon gift shop.

A roaring good day to you, dear friend!
Grandma, The Dino-Maniac

These original designs, as well as all blog content, are intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!


  1. YOU are just amazing! What a wonderful adventure for them and such a great learning adventure, too! Oh they will definitely remember all of this!

  2. Fabulous idea from a very special grandma, just brilliant. x