straws cut into small sections about 1 inch long (for tail spikes)
yellow construction paper
crayons and colored markers
Show your child a picture of a Stegosaurus, either printed out from the Dinosaur Train Field Guide, or found in a book. Since Stegosaurus is one of the most famous dinosaur species, finding a picture of this animal should be easy. Ask your child if he knows the name of this dinosaur. Ask him to think of words to describe its appearance. What “features” (introduce this term) make this Stegosaurus a Stegosaurus? (as opposed to a sheep or a bumble bee?) If desired, write down on a board or big pad all of the features suggested. Your child will probably comment on this animal’s plates and its spiked tail. Help him understand the terms plates and spikes. He may also comment on this animal’s shape. Ask them how many legs it walked on, how big they think it was compared to a child his age (it was about “4 kids tall”).
Watch the video clip about Morris Stegosaurus, above. Ask your child to discuss how this animal’s plates and spikes may have helped it survive. In addition to providing protection from other dinosaurs that wanted to eat this type of dinosaur, some scientists think that the plates may have also helped Stegosaurus to cool off. (Background: Fossil evidence suggests that Stegosaurus plates contained blood vessels – so when a Stegosaurus turned its body away from the sun’s rays, its blood vessels got less exposure than when they were facing the plates directly into the sun’s heat—so the Stegosaurus could cool off.)
Give your child a printout of the Stegosaurus “plates and spikes” page. Help him cut out the pictures of “bony plates” of different sizes. Ask him to count the plates — there are 17. Explain that all Stegosaurus’ usually had 17 back plates, much in the same way that dogs usually have 4 legs, humans have five fingers on each hand, and so on. Help him notice that the smaller plates were located near the neck and tail, whereas the larger plates belong more in the middle of the Stegosaurus’ back.
Help your child draw Stegosaurus faces on a paper bag. Then have him tape or glue the 17 plates on the back of the bag — in two rows. Note that 9 of the plates go on one side of the Stegosaurus’ back while the others will go on the other side of the back, alternating in alignment.
Have your child cut out the paper tail, then tape on 4 tail spikes (short pieces of straw). Attach the tail to the puppet.
Have your child create a sun by tracing the paper plate on the yellow construction paper, then cut it out.
Your child can pretend to be the sun by holding it up in the “sky.” Have your child point his puppet sideways to the sun — so its plates get as much sunshine as possible. When he reaches as high as he can, have your child turn the puppet 90 degrees, so the plates are now NOT facing the sun. This is done to help kids play that they are overheated Stegosauruses trying to beat the heat.
Take It Further
Different Dinosaurs in Different Time Periods: Many children mistakenly believe that all dinosaur species lived at the same time. For example, your child might have a toy Stegosaurus and toy Tyrannosaurus rex fight each other, or play together. In real life, these species lived MILLIONS of years apart. Stegosaurus lived during the Jurassic Time Period and Tyrannosaurus rex lived during the Cretaceous Time Period. Have your child use the Dinosaur Train field guide or other library resources to identify 3 dinosaurs that lived during each of the three time periods (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous).
Help your child think about animals alive today that have features similar to Stegosaurus’s plates and tail spikes. After watching Dr. Scott’s live-action segment on Stegosaurus, ask your child to think of animals with horns, antlers and other protective features. You could also discuss how the plates make Stegosaurus’ body appear bigger, much in the way that some animals do this today (such as cats rearing their backs when upset, or cobras raising their “hoods” when threatened.)