Fun, Hands-On Dinosaur Unit: Cerapods – Tricerotops

This week’s focus for our dinosaur unit has been the dinosaurs from the Cerapods group using Triceratops as an example, and we have had heaps of hand-on fun!

Dinosaur unit study, triceratops

Dinosaurs are classified into two groups dependant on the position of the hips:

  1. Saurischia (lizard hipped dinosaurs)
  2. Ornithiscia (bird hipped dinosaurs)

The Saurischia are further divided into Theropods and Sauropods, while the Ornithiscia are divided into Thyreophora and Cerapods.  Last week we focused on one of the dinosaurs from the Thyreophora group, namely the Stegasaurus.  Cerapod dinosaurs include Ceratopsian (horned faced) dinosaurs like the Triceratops as well as Ornithopods (bird footed) dinosaurs like the Iguanodon.  This week we have been focusing on the Triceratops.

As well as learning about this three-horned dinosaur we also learnt about ichnologists (a scientist who studies dinosaur tracks), dinosaur tracks and how they are fossilised as well as comparing different dinosaur foot prints and learning a full appreciation of just how large the triceratops actually were!

Dinosaur Writing Assignments

The girls narrated about the Triceratops to me and I typed it into StartWrite and they copied it out, first A7’s and then B5’s:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-writing 2

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A7 wrote an acrostic poem, which she really enjoyed, and drew her own little Triceratops at the top of the sheet:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-writing

Dinosaur Maths

B5 has finished her Reception level maths, but because it is a computer maths course she has done so without ever being required to write any numbers down! So she has been practicing writing her numbers whilst A7 continued with her year two maths.

  • Dinosaur themed number practice (she did all the numbers up to ten)

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-maths

  • Dinosaur themed addition and subtraction, using a colour by numbers addition and subtraction sheet:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-maths 2

  • Addition using a number line and toy dinosaurs.  I wrote the sums out, B5 counted using both the dinosaurs and then the number line and finally wrote the answer and then practiced by writing the same number a few times:

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  • Some join the dots just as a bit of fun!

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Dinosaur Read Alouds

what really happened to the dinosaurs

Dinosaur Audio-Visual

A7 has been listening to a Dinosaurs and the Bible course and thoroughly enjoying it.  The girls also watched Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.  Yes, I know.  Very educational indeed 🙂

Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Geography

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-geography

Dinosaur Science

Read and Find out - dinosaur tracks

This weeks science was based on Dinosaur foot prints.  There were so many activities which could be done with this topic.  I found some fabulous print outs from Scheich which we used as well as studying some dinosaur feet and dinosaur foot prints up at the Natural History Museum in London:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-museum

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  • Activity One: Matching Dinosaur Prints to the Dinosaur they Belong to

We used the matching activity from the site above.  Scheich has produced some great sheets to go along with their very life-like and realistic as possible toy Dinosaurs.  We could not afford the twelve dinosaurs required for the activity but we did have a fabulous set of eight mini figures from the same company and they did the job just as well:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-footprints

I gave the girls the graph with the dinosaurs sized next to man and also matching (in colour) footprints, also sized next to man.  We chatted about the relative sizes and they pointed out all the familiar Dinosaurs they knew.

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-footprint comparison

Next I gave them the matching activity sheet, a lump of Plasticine and the pack of animals.  First they rolled the Plasticine, then took a dinosaur, named it and pushed its feet into the clay.

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-footprints-2

Once a satisfactory print had been made, they checked the sheet to see if any matched.  Sometimes they needed to count toes.  A7 wrote the number of the correct dinosaur next to the prints.  They could self correct by looking at the original sizing sheet:

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  • Activity Two: Make and Observe an Actual Sized Dinosaur Print

The girls compared the size of themselves against the triceratops foot print, by lying next to it:

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And sitting inside it:

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And last but not least making one outside in the flattened bed:

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and of course standing in it:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-foot print-7

  • Activity Three: Make Your Own Fossilised triceratops foot print

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-foot prints-7

Dino footprint

Dino foot print 2

  • Activity Four: A science demonstration to show how footprints in the sand can become fossilised over time

Read and Find out - dinosaur tracks

This is an activity I got from the book above, which explains the study of dinosaur foot prints brilliantly:

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print

Collect a dish, play sand, Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate), water, a bowl and something to stir with.  Place one cup of water in the bowl and add half a cup of Epsom salts, stirring until the salts are fully dissolved in the water:

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 2

Once fully dissolved pour some of the water and salt solution onto the sand and mix it in thoroughly.  You need to add enough of the solution that the sand sticks together but not enough that it begins to look soupy:

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 3

Level out the sand in the dish.  Make your hand into a dinosaur foot shape with three toes (by keeping your first two fingers together and your last two fingers together).  Press your hand firmly into the sand making a deep impression:

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 4

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 6

Leave for a few days to dry out completely:

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 7

You can see where the salt has crystallised on the surface of the sand.  The print and surrounding sand will have pretty much solidified and will look just like a dinosaur print from all those years ago 🙂

Dinosaur study-triceratops-fossilised foot print 8

The girls were astonished at how hard the prints were, and even I was impressed.  The Epsom salts behave like a glue and glue the sand particles together, thus preserving the print, much like they do in nature, creating fossilised dinosaur prints.

Dinosaur Handcrafts

  • We made a 3-D puzzle model bought very inexpensively from Wilkinson:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-puzzle

L13 helped A7, whilst I helped B5.  They looked much trickier than they actually were and turned into a surprisingly robust Triceratops:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-puzzle 2

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  • We made a paper plate Triceratops, a perfect activity for B5:

dinosaur unit study-triceratops-art

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  • The girls also did some colouring in sheets.  A7 obviously has some sort of rainbow theme going on with her drawings and models of Triceratops!

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Triceratops at the Natural History Museum

  • There was a whole cast life-size model of Triceratops to see:

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  • An actual Triceratops skull:

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  • As well as a model of a Triceratops horn:

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This was such a great and thorough study of Triceratops.  The children have really got on board with this topic and are enjoying themselves so much.  Next week I will be posting about our study of the Brachiosaurus, and learning more about how bones are excavated and transported to a museum.

dinosaur unit study image

For more ideas do visit my dinosaur pinterest board:


  1. This looks like such fun. You really know how to pack so many activities into each unit study. You should win the Best-est-Activity-est Home School Mom – EVER Award! Seriously!!! The girls did a fantastic job on their narrations. I have to love B’s face as she is holding the model. Oh, my.
    Have a lovely weekend, Claire and family.

    1. Aww, you’re so sweet! I have to say this is one of the easiest units I’ve put together because the little ones are dinosaur obsessed!

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