When most people hear the word “paleontology,” they typically think of dinosaurs. But paleontology isn’t simply about dinosaurs, or even dinosaur bones. Paleontology is the study of fossilized bones and plants in order to understand the way the world used to be. It uses all kinds of science and technology to paint a picture of our planet’s past. It’s just the sort of thing that kids love as it incorporates some mystery, some investigation, lots of getting your hands dirty, and the possibility of cool discoveries.
If you have a kid who is interested in paleontology, or dinosaurs, or science, or where things come from, we’ve put together some great books to feed their curiosity. You won’t find any straight dinosaur titles here as we want kids to understand that paleontology is about so much more. The ages listed are the publisher’s recommended ages for you to use as a guide.
Paleontology: The Study of Prehistoric Life (Scholastic), Susan H. Gray (7-9 years)
Nab this book for kids who want a general overview of paleontology. It is age appropriate for early elementary school with wonderful images and a lot of information to get them started. It is one of the few books available for younger kids that is generally about paleontology, rather than focusing on just one or two aspects of the science.
Curious About Fossils (Smithsonian), Kate Waters (6-8 years)
For kids who are just starting to become interested in paleontology, this provides a solid introduction to fossils. But more importantly, it discusses some of the early paleontologists for kids to use as inspiration. Curious About Fossils would pair well with the Scholastic paleontology book above.
DK Eyewitness Books: Fossil, Paul Taylor (8-12 years)
DK Eyewitness books are always full of stunning images and this title is no different. Kids can learn how fossils are formed, what they look like, and how to identify them. It covers both plant and animal life and helps kids see the bigger picture of paleontology: how fossils help us make sense of prehistoric life on earth and how we can use that information to inform the lives we live today.
Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind, Jacob Berkowitz (8-12 years)
As the title suggests, Jurassic Poop brings some humor into the paleontology discussion, but don’t dismiss this as a fluff title or cutesy preschool story. There’s some excellent information to be had about what we can learn from fossilized feces, and the clever illustrations keep things entertaining and fun.
In addition to these books, consider bringing home a kit on digging for fossils, such as the National Geographic Mega Fossil Mine. Kids can put what they’ve learned into action by excavating the fossils and then identifying them. Once they’re done, they will have started (or added to) their own fossil collections. There are also kits that focus on just the sorting and identification.
Still curious about paleontology? Your kids may be ready for some hands-on activities at the Club SciKidz Dallas Paleo Summer Camp. Budding scientists in grades 1-3 will spend a week learning all about fossils, excavation, petrified wood, dinosaurs, and rocks and minerals. They will learn so much, they’ll probably teach you a thing or two. In the meantime, they’ll be entertained, educated, and cared for, and your only worry is that they’ll dig up your yard in search of fossils when they are done.