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Dino Parfait

In many parts of the country, buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface, there are dinosaur fossils just waiting to be discovered! Do you know how deep paleontologists must dig to make a dino-mite discovery? In this activity, you're going to create a delicious dino parfait to learn how dinosaurs became fossils and how paleontologists determine their age. The deeper you dig, the older the fossils.

So let’s create a dino parfait and start diggin’!  

Materials 

Dino parfait materials

  • Small clear plastics cups
  • Spoons
  • Gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  
  • Vanilla wafer cookie  
  • Fruit slices  
  • Raisins and/or M&Ms 
  • Shredded coconut 
  • Cookie decorating sprinkles 
  • Whipped cream  
  • Grape jelly 
  • Green, yellow and red food coloring 
  • Paper and colored pencils

Process 

Hand holding a container and sprinkling blue sprinkles to the dino parfait.

  1. Split the whipped cream between two clear plastic cups. Use the food coloring to dye one cup of whipped cream yellow so that it represents sandy soil and the other red so that it represents clay. 
  2. Use the food coloring to dye your shredded coconut green. 
  3. Select a “fossil” from your gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animals). You may want to use scissors to cut apart the gummy candy or break up the cookies to show that most fossils do not survive intact.
  4. Build your dino parfait by adding a spoonful or two of the following ingredients into your plastic cup: 
    • Vanilla wafer cookie  – also known as hardened sediment
    • A gummy candy dinosaurs (or other animal)  – also known as your buried fossil
    • Fruit slices – also known as sediment layers
    • Raisins and/or M&Ms – also known as rocks
    • Grape jelly – also known as underground water
    • Red whipped cream – also known as clay
    • Yellow whipped cream – also known as sandy soil  
    • Cookie decorating sprinkles – also known as surface dirt
    • Green shredded coconut – also known as grass

Hand holding a cup of green dyed coconut above the parfait.

Results

  • Use your paper and colored pencils to draw a picture of your cup and its layers. Each tasty treat represents a layer of what’s beneath our toes when we walk outdoors. 
  • Can you tell which layer is the oldest? The deeper layers are the older layers of Earth’s surface, while the top layers are the more recent ones. 
  • Can you see which layer your fossil is buried in? When dinosaurs became extinct some 65.5 million years ago, many of their bodies were fossilized between layers of mud and sand that eventually became sedimentary rock. Over time, more layers of rock, clay, water and soil formed on top of the fossilized dinosaurs. 
  • Is your fossil old or young? As you can see, paleontologists must dig very, very deep to find dinosaur fossils. When they do dig deep enough to make a dino-mite discovery, it’s the sediment and rocks surrounding the bones that help these scientists determine the age of the dinosaur fossils.

Now all hungry paleontologists should enjoy their very own dino parfait!    

Dino parfait with many colored layers sitting inside a clear plastic cup.

See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.