A story about making dinosaur eggs.
I am a parent and, like most parents, I really don’t have a clue what I am doing. Still, I am filled with good and honourable intentions towards my children and, on a highly regular basis I dream up some madcap scheme where a fun activity will provide a stimulating, educational environment of industrious yet happy small persons.
Invariably things do not go as planned, but do I learn? No! I have a short term memory warp which forgets how disastrous the last “fun” activity was within a day and plans the next one in as short a time.
For one such plan I took it into my head that my eldest child, a girl, Isla, who was quite enthusiastic about dinosaurs at the time, would make paper-mache dinosaur eggs. She would not only enjoy making the eggs, she would then enjoy painting them before painting a plate of dinosaur appropriate food for them to eat. Lastly we would go on an outing and measure out the length of each dinosaur. At the end of this she would be capable of a university degree level dissertation on prehistoric wildlife should her kindergarten teachers require one.
I chose three dinosaurs which I considered to be amongst the most well known; Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Stegosaurus. My daughter already had a toy of each one so they were already familiar to her. I could google (how did we ever manage before the internet?) the necessary prehistoric information, I had balloons which I could blow up to the appropriate egg size, I had paints to paint the eggs and food and, finally, to measure eggs and dinosaurs I had a spiffy metal tape measure left over from my husband’s half finished DIY efforts.
The first problem.
I don’t actually know how to make paper-mache. I’m sure at one point, possibly many points in my childhood, I had paper-mached a variety of projects but try as I might the ingredients could not be remembered. Not a problem, merely a minor hic-cup, I can google!
Ingredients for paper-mache: 1 cup of water, 1 cup of flour.
Method: Mix it together and use.
Sounds easy enough.
I check my almost non-existent baking stock and discover some rather elderly gluten-free flour, the reason for it’s presence within my kitchen was rather lost on me, I’m still not sure what it was bought for (possibly some other marvelous kiddie project) but it was there. A-ha! I have what I need.
The thought flashes through my brain; will gluten-free flour work?
Unfortunately I failed to discover a straight forward answer on the matter but was left with the distinct impression it wouldn’t because gluten is what makes flour stick – no gluten, no stickiness, disintegrated dinosaur eggs.
Never mind, I think to myself, still full of grand dreams. Just to be sure I pop off to the shops and buy flour with gluten present and accounted for, stickiness at the ready.
With the practical side at the ready I proceed to the informative side of things.
The second problem.
Brontosaurus doesn’t exist.
I couldn’t believe it either!
Brontosaurus doesn’t exist!
I had to repeat it just to believe it!
If, like me, you grew up believing Brontosaurus was the largest dinosaur to have ever existed you can understand my confusion but you read it right, Brontosaurus does not exist! It is really quite upsetting. I can only liken the feeling to when Pluto was removed from the list of planets. How dare they declare Pluto not a planet! How dare they remove Brontosaurus from the list of dinosaurs!
Further googling finds me the whole story. Someone found part of a skeleton. They ran, quick as they could, and registered it as a new dinosaur find and proudly endowed it with the name Apatosaurus. Fast forward a few years and another person makes their own incredible find, a really big dinosaur skeleton! They too run off to register the new find. They name it Brontosaurus, under the impression their place in the history of the world as finder and namer of the largest dinosaur is assured. They sit back and relax.
So there we have it! For many years there are two separate and distinct dinosaurs one called Apatosaurus and another called Brontosaurus.
Now, for whatever reason, Apatosaurus fades into the background, only specialists know its name, nobody else has ever heard of it or even really cares. Brontosaurus, on the other hand, becomes a film star! We all learn about it in school. It’s the biggest land animal to have ever been! It gets it’s own replicas! Lots of them! Children (and some adults when they think nobody is looking) perform epic stories casting Brontosaurus as the lead! Brontosaurus made it! Brontosaurus is famous! Everybody loves Brontosaurus.
Let’s move along a few more years. Paleontologists, who, you must remember also know the name of the otherwise forgotten Apatosaurus keep eyeing Brontosaurus suspiciously. “Ah-ha!” they conclude. “This is the same dinosaur!”
It’s the death knell of the Brontosaurus we are so fond of. (Enter funeral march here… dum dum dee dum, dum dee dum dee dum dee dum…)
Faced with two names, one, Brontosaurus, of which is known by almost the entire world and another, Apatosaurus, which, for the most part, no-one has ever heard of, you would think the only sensible solution would be to drop the unknown name and keep the known one. This would save schools and other educational institutions around the world millions on books. This would prevent major confusion amongst those who, having already been robbed of the smallest of the planets in our solar system, would not be further traumatised by the disappearance of the much beloved dinosaur they had grown up with. This, perfectly logical solution, would have been too easy! Such a situation must have obviously have happened before because there is even a system in place to resolve such a conflict and prevent archaelogical fisticuffs from destroying the museums. The first name stands, the second name is resigned to the bin, regardless of what is most sensible. Apatosaurus wins. However, the scientific institutions, must have learnt from the highly publicised demotion of Pluto which sparked protests, outright denials and social media groups. They kept it quiet. Sneakily they just changed the name and announced absolutely nothing so that slowly, so slowly, as the years go by, person after person discovers Brontosaurus no longer exists…
After the traumatic loss of Brontosaurus, I pull myself together.
A short google later I have Apatosaurus egg size, most likely dietary requirements and a size of 22 meters. Eggs and diet are not a problem; but is 22 meters from nose to tail on a sort of diagonal or along the ground while it’s standing? Never mind I think. What’s a few metres here and there?
First set of information obtained. Now for T-Rex…
The third problem.
Tyrannosaurus Rex? The most famous dinosaur of all time? Star of countless movies? Apparently, it’s one of the rarest dinosaurs to find and there are no complete skeletons found as yet. The best they have is 90% and there have been no T-Rex eggs found, ever! Experts don’t want to even guesstimate the egg size… The best I could do after much fruitless googling which started to make me googly-eyed was one expert saying they suspected a T-Rex egg was somewhere between the size of a penguin egg and an ostrich egg possibly closer to penguin egg. I’ve only made an omelette with chicken eggs. I have never seen an ostrich egg or a penguin egg.
Still, I am undeterred! I persevere! Why? Because I can google!
I googled penguin eggs. I completely underestimate the variety of penguins out there. There are 17 different species of penguins of varying sizes with, obviously, a variety of different sized eggs. My expert obviously cheated in his T-Rex egg guesstimate. I googled ostrich eggs instead and shaved a bit off the length. My daughter will never know…
Stegosaurus, thankfully, was easy as.
The fourth problem.
I had balloons to blow up to approximate egg size which could then be covered in paper mache. I had the spiffy DIY tape measure. How to measure a balloon you are blowing up while holding a tape measure?
I couldn’t. I had to wait till husband came home and enlisted (erm… forced) him to help. My husband held and puffed while I watched and measured… (Make what you will of that particular sentence).
The fifth problem.
The day had arrived! My daughter would make her dinosaur eggs!
I got out all the equipment. The strips of newspaper I had carefully torn, the tape measure I had uncovered, the bowl of paper-mache I had mixed and finally the three balloons.
Unfortunately overnight T-Rex had had a puncture. The King of the dinosaurs was a frazzled bit of rubber measuring less than a centimeter beside the proudly puffed apatosaurus and stegosaurus.
We hastily found another balloon. Hubby puffed, I measured.
Everything was ready!
The sixth problem.
I explained to my daughter the fun activity we were about to do.
She looked at the paper-mache. She ran away and hid in her tent. Apparently the paper-mache would make her messy and she was wearing a pretty dress – she didn’t want to be messy.
No amount of cajoling would bring her out of the tent. She had a pretty dress on and from her point of view wearing a pretty dress, especially one which was pink and swished from side to side when she wiggled, trumped “fun activity”.
My husband paper-mached Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus, I paper-mached T-Rex. My husband said it was quite relaxing and therapeutic.
My daughter and her pretty dress remained in her tent away from the “mess”.
The fun activity
It took a day for the paper-mached eggs to dry out.
Once they did the eggs were painted in their own unique colours; Apatosaurus got blue, T-Rex got brown and Stegosaurus was declared to be green.
Apparently Apatosaurus eggs also have stickers on, I wasn’t actually around 65 million years ago so who am I to say they didn’t…
We popped the balloons. Destruction of any object (as long as it isn’t a pretty dress) is always met with immediate enthusiasm… Should I be worried?
Each egg also hatched. This was an unplanned event my husband spontaneously initiated which delighted our daughter and she spent quite some time coaxing them out of their eggs and then painted plates with food on to feed her growing dinosaur brood.
For those who are interested, T-Rex got meat (red and brown paint swirls), Apatosaurus got tree branches (green paint swirls), Stegosaurus got plants and flowers (green paint swirls with pink blobs).
Next, we planned to go out to somewhere more spacious than our apartment. A 22 metre Apatosaurus was never going to fit…
The penultimate problem
That very morning we dropped my son off at nursery only for him to be sent home again. What we thought was a mosquito bite was in fact the start of chicken pox. We weren’t going anywhere for two weeks.
Never mind. We could at least measure the slightly smaller T-Rex and Stegosaurus in the longest part of our home, the corridor. My husband held one end of the tape measure. My daughter and I took the other. We began to walk the distance of a Stegosaurus.
The final problem
Whoever made our spiffy tape measure had not considered the need to measure dinosaurs. The tape measure wasn’t long enough. We had to tag team the length.
Stegosaurus was about 12 daughters long.
T-Rex was between 2 and 3 husbands tall.
We finally got there!
I can’t say this was the easiest of activities but it did occur over multiple days and at the end of it she knew Apatosaurus was the biggest of dinosaurs (and so did I). She knew T-rex was a fearsome meat eater and she could pronounce Stegosaurus. I think if you have a child who doesn’t mind getting ‘messy’ this is a great activity, for mine there were probably better ones.
UPDATE!! So many months later Isla still knows about Apatosaurus and T-rex although she forgot Stegosaurus so two out of three dinosaurs ain’t bad. This activity is now recommended to all 🙂