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‘Jurassic’ Inspired Dinosaur Small World With Swamp And Volcano

‘Jurassic’ Inspired Dinosaur Small World With Swamp And Volcano

This Dinosaur tuff tray and small world is kindly sponsored by Small Eco Steps of Chester.

Inspiration for our Dinosaur Tuff tray came from ‘Jurassic World’. This multisensory experience kept the kids entertained for hours. We have included a wet and a dry option as we know each child responds differently to various stimuli and may prefer one type of set up over the other.

Although we have used certain toys for the purpose of a product review, all our scenes can be re-created using items that are easily sourced or that you are likely to have at home. We were kindly sent the Dinosaur Discovery Set and Dinosaur Footprints to put to the test, both of which are available from Our review of these items can be found after our instructions on how to make the dinosaur tuff tray and dinosaur swamp.

Dinosaur tuff tray/small world play idea

What you will need - Wet tray (dinosaur swamp and volcano)

*Waterproof dinosaurs
*Volcano made from papier Mache surrounding a removable recycled bottle
*White vinegar
* Sodium bicarbonate
*Red and green food colouring
*Small container e.g. plant pot to place volcano on
*Twigs of various thicknesses
*Lime jelly (optional)
*Washing up liquid

Method for wet tray (Dinosaur swamp and volcano)

  1. To make the model volcano, re-use a 500ml bottle and rip up some old newspaper. Mix the paper with PVA glue and water to make papier mache. Seal the edges so the reaction products don’t seep between the paper and bottle. You want the reaction to overflow and move down the volcano, not inside the cone.
  2. Place the volcano on a container like a plant pot to suspend it above the ‘swamp’. Decorate the pot by adding ferns etc.
  3. To make the swamp, add green jelly (optional) diluted with water mixed with food colouring and washing up liquid. To make the swamp look murkier, add some flour in some areas. Add dinosaurs, leaves and twigs.
  4. When ready to set off the volcano, add 200ml of white vinegar, a squirt of washing up liquid, and food colouring into the empty bottle. In a separate container, make a baking soda slurry by filling the cup half way with baking soda and topping up with water. This in itself will start a reaction so you need to be FAST and pour this into the volcano. Stand back and watch the eruption.
‘Jurassic’ inspired dinosaur swamp for messy play. 

What you will need - Dinosaur dry tuff tray

*Dinosaurs of various sizes

*Dry porridge oats


*Measuring bones/dinosaur fossils

*Small paint brushes or ‘excavation’ brushes

*Garden pebbles/stones

*Dried grass or straw

*Pieces of slate or other material e.g. log plaques to make a cave

*Sand and shells

*Container to store water

*Green and brown coloured pasta shapes

*Rice or pasta coloured blue or blue pebbles.

*Scoops/rakes etc

*Ferns, pine cones, twigs, etc for general decoration


*Eco friendly glitter (optional)

*Toy crocodiles/alligators (optional)

Prehistoric Dinosaur small world play scene 

Method for dry dinosaur tuff tray

*Area 1 top left: Use compost to hide some measuring bones and dinosaur fossils.  Add some small brushes for excavation style activities and add the occasional pine cone.

Our two Paleontologists at work hunting for dinosaur discovery bones and dinosaur fossils. 

*Area 2 top right: Scatter some dry porridge oats and use large stones and/or pieces of slate to make a cave. Add dried grass/straw to make a nest for the frozen dinosaur eggs. To make the dinosaur eggs, add small dinosaurs to a balloon with some glitter (optional), fill with water and freeze overnight. Remove from freezer when play is imminent and remove the rubber balloon. All the kids loved using chisels and warmer water etc to free the dinos. Typically the CIWK kid decided to use the flagstones to break dino free….. clever but not exactly what we had in mind and this led to a decapitated dino!

*Area 3 bottom left – Beach made from sand, containers filled with water as kids love letting the dinos paddle, and shells. To avoid the sand mixing with the compost from the area above, separate the scenes using garden pebbles.

*Area 4 bottom middle – Green and brown dyed pasta shapes to act as a filler and provide items to scoop.  To dye the pasta, dissolve a small amount of powdered food colouring in water, stir into dried pasta and leave it out to dry again overnight.


*Area 5 bottom right: Create a rockery using garden pebbles. Fill the area with dried blue rice to make a dinosaur lake. We didn’t but you could add toy crocodiles/alligators to finish the scene.


Extra details:

*Add scoops and rakes on the side.

*Scatter the dinosaurs throughout the play scene.

*Scatter other decorations like log plaques, ferns, leaves, pine cones etc throughout the scenes.

Optional activities to extend play:

  1. Use the bones and fossils to make crayon rubbings.
  2. Use the bones and fossils to make salt dough impressions or use paint to make dinosaur tracks.
  3. The younger children matched the bones into pairs based on length. Older children can use them to practice reading measurement scales.
  4. Create a dinosaur from cardboard or paper.

Product review:

As mentioned, we were kindly asked to put the Dinosaur Footprints and The Dinosaur Bones Discovery set to the test courtesy of Small Eco Steps of Chester. Our willing participants were two three year olds and a seven year old.


Dinosaur Bones Discovery set – After initially playing with the wet tray, all the children headed to this section of the  dry tuff and loved trying to uncover all of the bones. We encouraged the younger children to pair the bones up based on size and then arrange the bones in size order. For the older child, we used the bones to discuss what a Palaeontologist was and how that differed to an Archaeologist. The bones are durable since they are made from a resin/stone mix, and withstood being knocked together by the toddlers to make ‘dinosaur music’ and felt nice to the touch. The bones were great for introducing some basic mathematical language and skills. The bones are suitable for children aged 2 plus in terms of their engagement but are suitable for babies to handle if being used with older siblings.

Dinosaur Footprints – Our 7 year old tester adored these so much he is getting a set of these 8 double sided stones for Christmas. Not only did all children love unearthing the ‘fossils’ but our seven year old loved the challenge of using the footprint to figure out which type of dinosaur created it using the key provided on the box. He then turned the print around to find the image of the dinosaur that created the footprint. The Dinosaur footprints provided a great opportunity to encourage him to learn new skills (such as comparing objects. We achieved this by talking about the various adaptations the dinosaurs had and how these features helped them survive by looking at the different shaped prints. We looked at the claws for instance to talk about the types of food each creature may have eaten. Suitable for children 3 years and upwards, the set again was durable since its made from a unique stone mix and easily washable after being covered in compost. We loved that the prints come with some other suggested activities e.g. making salt dough prints and rubbings as outlined in our activities to extend play section above.

Where can we buy the Dinosaur Footprints and Dinosaur Bones Discovery Set?

Both items are available for purchase from who will post items throughout the UK. 

Other retailers/supporters

Thank you to Small Eco Steps for sponsoring the above dinosaur tuff tray. A special shout out goes to Splat Messy Play Cheshire West and Wirral and Julies Jones Childminding for providing inspiration and the use of additional toys/items. As you can see, we use a range of toy specialists to create our scenes and we will continue to select at least one a week to give a special shout out. 

Health and safety:

  1. Parents/carers are responsible for carrying out their own risk assessment when performing any sort of Science based investigation. Clued in with kids can not be held liable for any injury or damage to clothing/goods when partaking in such activities.
  2. All food is touch safe and most is taste safe if you use food grade colouring. However, some items used are a choking hazard for kids under 3 and so these may need to be substituted with other items. Also babies can choke on the dry pasta so pasta and should be cooked and coloured on the day then stored safely.
  3. We have provided our honest opinions regarding the toys sent to us for testing and where possible, we always ask the kids and another parent/carer for their feedback to help provide an accurate and unbiased product review.

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