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Garden

How to Make a Whimsical Dinosaur Garden with Kids

My kids have become dinosaur kids.

They were somewhat interested in dinosaurs and then we started watching the PBS Kids show, Dinosaur Train. Now, they correct me when I pronounce michelinoceras wrong (I was pronouncing it mich-elino-sarus, oops!).

Despite my mispronunciations, I really enjoy learning along with them and marveling at the magnificence of dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Fairy Garden

We love making magical little fairy garden houses in the vegetable garden beds.

So of course when the dinosaur obsession took hold, the kids wanted to bring dinos into the garden too.

I love that my kids play in the vegetable garden. Playing and just being near the veggies and herbs feels so grounding and offers lots of teaching moments. And I don’t mind if the parsley gets a bit trampled or the occasional seedling gets pulled.

But I started thinking about my youngest’s upcoming birthday. And the big question…

What to get a kid who loves dinosaurs?

Our family tries to incorporate activities or experiences into gifts whenever possible. And since I love to create succulent pot arrangements, I thought it would be fun to create a whimsical dinosaur garden for my budding paleontologist.

I asked my oldest what he thought about building sister a special dinosaur garden for her birthday. He was really excited and immediately said, “I have an even better idea. Let’s build a Dinosaur Land.”

So, as an early birthday present and fun activity, I took the kids to Barrels and Branches to find supplies for Dinosaur Land.

Photo from Barrels and Branches Instagram

If you live in San Diego or ever happen to find yourself nearby, Barrels and Branches is a really special place. It’s a nursery and an event space but feels more like a botanic garden. The owner, Samantha, and all of the people who work there are so nice, knowledgeable and helpful.

We’ve been going to Barrels and Branches since my oldest was a toddler and have special memories searching for Minnie the black kitty, finding garden frogs, exploring the different pathways, and of course being around so many beautiful plants.

We found a lovely large and relatively shallow terra cotta pot perfect for our project.

I let the kids pick out a few succulents they liked. And we all had fun scooping decorative rocks from the barrels.

There were some interesting driftwood pieces and I picked out a few prehistoric looking lithops too. I’m a novice at caring for lithops and there’s a chance they’ll get overwatered because the kids help water the plants.

When we got home the kids were so excited to examine all of their building materials and start working on Dinosaur Land.

Safety note – Neither of my kids will try to put rocks or garden stones in their mouth anymore. But be sure and use caution, especially if your kids are young or new to gardening. Colorful rocks and glass garden stones can look deceptively like candy or jelly beans.

The garden design was led by the kids, although I did help arrange a couple of plants, filled in soil gaps, and added pumice for extra drainage. And I had to convince my youngest to not pop the lithop tops off of their roots. She was really curious. They are such interesting little plants. 

My oldest had the idea to create a river through the garden. And the youngest immediately called the river a bed for the dinosaurs to sleep in.  

We all had so much fun working on this project together. And Dinosaur Land turned out even better than I expected.

My sister got me a couple of adorable concrete garden bunnies for my birthday so naturally they wanted to check out the dinosaur garden too.

This project could easily be adapted to fit your kids interests.

You can build a fairy garden, a butterfly garden, a superhero garden, or really any type of favorite figures garden. We have some small Daniel Tiger and Mickey Mouse figures that I have a feeling will start playing along with our dinosaurs very soon.

5 Things I Especially Love about our Dinosaur Garden

  1. The kids got to help pick out the plants, rocks, and supplies.
  2. We all worked together to design, plant, and create the garden.
  3. It can evolve, grow, and change over time. I can visualize adding in more shells, pinecones, glass garden stones, and other fun items as they continue to play and explore.
  4. The whole project was imaginative, fun, and unique.
  5. It looks absolutely beautiful and is a really nice addition to our back patio.

If you make a dinosaur fairy garden with your kids, I highly recommend involving them in the planning and creation of the entire project. The sense of pride and ownership kids have when they create something that’s so beautiful and fun is unmatched. 

After we completed our dinosaur garden we collected a bunch of the glass garden beads that were scattered around the yard and set them out in saucers and pots along with extra rocks to play with. You’ll notice the bunnies are admiring Dinosaur Land in this picture.

Supplies

  • Pot we used a large and somewhat shallow terra cotta pot, but you could make a really adorable mini dinosaur garden in a standard size flower pot too!
  • Potting soil (if you are planting succulents, use a cactus mix or pumice amendment for better drainage. General Pumice Products is my favorite brand).
  • Plants (we chose succulents, lithops and a small brushy kind of plant)
  • Decorative rocks, glass garden stones (smooth, not sharp), driftwood, sticks or other natural elements like shells and pinecones.
  • Dinosaur or other figures(ours were gifts, so I’m not sure where they are from, but these look really fun).

Directions

  1. Lay out all of your supplies and talk about the vision for the garden.
  2. Place a layer of potting soil and pumice into the pot.
  3. Arrange your plants and add in more soil and pumice. You can build a mound or hill in your garden if you want some height variation. Or carve space for a river.
  4. Add rocks, pebbles, driftwood, shells, pinecones, glass garden stones, anything you want to decorate your dinosaur garden. We covered almost all of the soil with rocks, but you could leave areas for muddy dinosaur play too.
  5. Grab your dinosaur and start playing!

Holiday Ideas

A Dinosaur Garden would make a super fun holiday gift/activity too! If you live in a cooler climate, you could make an indoor Dinosaur garden with houseplants.

If you’ve made it this far, I’m guessing your kids are also really into dinosaurs. Here are a few of our other favorite dinosaur things.

Dinosaurs Memory & Matching Game

Book Recommendations

Dinosaur Art and Activities

Cardboard collage Pteranodon
Cardboard collage Stegosarus
Free the frozen dino. I froze a dinosaur skeleton in Tupperware and then gave the kids warm salt water mixed with food coloring to excavate it.
Dinosaur Train figures made of printed and colored pictures glued onto cardboard.
Dinosaur Train tickets made of scrap paper with heart hole punch

Allergy Friendly Dinosaur Snacks

I was browsing snacks on Thrive Market the other day and searched for dinosaurs. I found these fun dinosaur Chocolate Chip Granola bars. They are nut free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and delicious!

In case you don’t know about Thrive Market, it’s a wonderful online grocery store chock full of healthy and allergy friendly foods, cleaning supplies, health and beauty, and more. Their boxes are sturdy and great for recycled projects too!

What Will You Create?

If you make a dinosaur garden, fairy garden, or another fun dinosaur project, please share your pictures with us. We’d love to see what you create!