Dinosaurs in Reception – Jenni’s Story

abc doesBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Creativity, Environment, Nurseries, Phonics, Planning and Assessment, Talk1 Comment

I was really chuffed that Jenni took the time to drop me a quick email to tell me that she had tried the recipe for dinosaur eggs that I had posted. It sounded like they had such a good time, I asked her to write me a post all about it….

I was so pleased that Alistair asked me to write about the fantastic dinosaur experience we recently had at our nursery – all thanks to ABC DOES!

 I logged on to ABC DOES, as usual, just to see what was happening. There it was, a recipe for dinosaur eggs – yippee, just what I needed to spice up our ‘theme’ – All creatures great and small!

 Alongside our ‘theme’ we also had three key texts to cover, the most exciting of which was the fab ‘Tom and the Island of dinosaurs’ by Ian Beck. This book provides many PSED/CLLD/KUW and problem solving opportunities – plus a strong female lead to boot!


Next came a surreal trip to my local Costa Coffee to get the used coffee grounds. The staff were kind, but did back away a little when I started blathering on about making dinosaur eggs – strange looks all round. 

The eggs were easy to make and the house smelled great! I think I overcooked mine a little – they were a bit too hard inside – next time I will bake them for less time.


Go on, guess what I am!

Dinosaur mania is rife at our nursery on any given day and they are always somewhere to be found – in the sand, water, play dough, outside – we don’t mind where!

Whilst observing the children, I noticed that quite a few of them, both genders, would, on arrival at nursery, head straight to the dinosaurs – then come to report to the adults that ‘the dinosaurs are still there’. This was just what I needed to get things moving!

The next day found me, at 7.30 a.m., dipping tiny dinosaur feet into brown paint, to create a trail of prints towards the door – watched by a bemused caretaker with a twitchy mop! Our dinosaurs were safely hidden away – although they did leave a group photo in case of pining.

All nursery adults were primed to go into full-on, ‘O.T.T’ acting mode once some poor child said ‘the dinosaurs have gone!’

Goodness knows what the children thought, watching four women of a certain age going ape over some plastic toys. Everyone won an ‘oscar’ for realistic reactions – but more importantly, the children were hooked! We also knew who to get on board, those children who ‘go for it’!

 We searched high and low but not a dinosaur in sight. But, hark, what could be in that envelope handily stuck onto the interactive whiteboard? ‘A pretend letter’ piped up a little voice – ooh such cynicism so young.

The ‘real’ letter (!) told the children that the dinosaurs had gone to help some boy on an island – whatever that was. This led to lots of KUW discussions about what an island was and wasn’t, and we had some unexpected experts: yafta av a boat / no roads to it / gotta fly to it.


 Next day a parcel arrived for the children – a book – ‘Tom and the island of dinosaurs’ – sent by the dinosaurs to let the children know what was going on. The children were enthralled by the story, as were the two senior management members in observing me that morning – so absorbed that they wrote down very little!

The story provides problem solving opportunities. I asked the children to think about how the dinosaurs could get off the island – stony silence at first, faces looking at me as if to say ‘we are only 3 and 4 you know’!

Once I said ‘tell your friend next to you’, they began to talk – granted not all of the talk was about dinosaurs – ‘I need a wee’ etc – BUT, they were talking and the staff praised all their fantastic ideas.


They came up with really good ideas: get a rescue helicopter / swim away / get a boat / some dinosaurs can fly! I won’t spoil the ending for you – do read it though – it’s a brilliant book!

From this we got the following, child initiated work: writing letters to the dinosaurs – putting them in a bottle – like in the story / huge paintings and models of dinosaurs and volcanoes / playdough dinosaurs to fill the empty shelf (sob).


Dinky the dinosaur – as he was christened during phonics!

The children were really hooked and dinosaur talk dominated every nursery session, highest engagement levels ever I have ever seen – from all children.

Untitled4Dominik’s volcano – great language development opportunities too.

Our school has a Family Involvement Programme and every term, each class invites family members in for a special day / event. There was no doubt about what we should do – Dinosaur day! This is where the eggs came to the fore.

Dinosaur day arrived and there was a fantastic turn out – over 20 adults per session a dad too) – far more than for our ‘Come and learn the jolly phonics actions’ workshop – can’t think why!


Off we go!

We had a range of activities for everyone to dip into as they wished. The main focus, though, was egg hunting! Just in time, the dinosaurs wrote us another letter to say that they had hidden something in our garden and left clues to help us find these items.  What could be hidden? Along with the letter were some written and photo clues. Off everyone went, in great excitement. What they actually found was our dinosaurs – they’re back shouted the children excitedly.

The two final clues led to the eggs – wow, how excited were we now! The parents were brilliant – totally up for it! We then performed our dinosaur songs and rhymes to make them feel at home.

Untitled3We found one!

What next?

We now had 3 eggs to look after – what did we need to do? Then we remembered how we had recently seen some other eggs in school, in Year 2. They might be able to help. Two ‘eggsperts’ were dispatched to tell us what to do – make a nest / don’t keep touching the eggs / no loud noises.


Guidelines were written up and stuck next to the nest. The eggs were left overnight.

I had bought a set of baby dinosaurs to match our original set – who were now back on their shelf and being guarded by some very stern-looking 3 year olds.

The children checked the eggs next day at drop off time, so parents could join in too. Much joy as the children found the ‘babies’, then matched baby and mum!

The work continued to pour out of the children – result!


One boy was so enthralled he wanted to have an egg of his own – so I sent home an egg and a baby dinosaur. He was thrilled to bits when he came back after the holiday – proudly showing me his baby!

I am always inspired by what I read on ABC DOES, (the new book is brill too!). I am really glad I made those eggs and thrilled by the learning journey they provided.

Try it – your children will thank you!


Jenni McDonough Nursery Teacher



JenniJenni McDonough, currently working in Bradford.

Been teaching ‘yonks’ but still love it to bits. Done all sorts!

During my career I have taught all ages from 3 to 16, also been a Deputy Head, had two Headships, had SENCO role for many years too. Mostly taught in Yorkshire, but also worked in Sweden, in the International School – teaching reception – a lot of children left with a fab ‘scouse’ accent I have to say!

Decided I wanted to get back into teaching after being in senior management for a while and so became a foundation stage leader, 7 years ago, teaching the reception class. Got itchy feet last year and started looking around – was appointed as a nursery teacher in January.

We have up to 40 children attending each session, with a team of four staff. The children, parents and staff are brilliant and I am always logging on to ABC DOES for new ideas and inspiration – never fails to deliver – not enough hours in the day though!

 Sounds great Jenni – only sorry I wasn't there to join in! Thanks again.


One Comment on “Dinosaurs in Reception – Jenni’s Story”

  1. Fabulous work Jenni! I recognised your photo at the end of your article, I met you at a network meeting in Bradford last year! Anyway that aside, this is the kind of work I am going to advocate in my new year 1 team 🙂 can’t wait!

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