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20 Minute Labs: Dinosaur Footprints



dinosaur footprint | Yellow Scope

Do you love dinosaurs? Who doesn't? But how did we find out dinosaurs even existed, given that they died out many millions of years ago?

Well, scientists found their bones, like the famous English paleontologist Mary Anning in the 1800s.

mary anning dinosaur fossils | Yellow Scope

But we also see evidence for dinosaurs in giant footprints in places like the coast of Australia, Bolivia, or in even in Utah and Colorado in the United States.

Let's make some dinosaur footprints right here at home!  In this month's 20 Minute Lab, we'll create a pretend dinosaur footprint trackway with common household ingredients. Then learn about how the real ones were formed over millions of years!


  • dinosaur footpring supplies | Yellow Scope
    Mixing bowl
  • 1 cup damp used coffee grounds
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • Fork
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Large plastic dinosaur toys (or whatever you want to make an imprint of!)
  1. In your mixing bowl, add the coffee grounds, flour, water, and salt.

  2. mixing bowl | Yellow Scope
    Use your hands or the fork to mix thoroughly, pressing out any clumps.

  3. Place the sheet of wax/parchment paper onto a counter or other flat surface.

  4. Fold the sheet in half lengthwise and press with your hand to create a seam. Unfold the sheet.

  5. Dump your mud-like 'clay' near the seam but so that all of the clay rests on one half of the paper.

  6. Fold the other side of the paper over the clay.

  7.  dinosaur clay slab | Yellow Scope
    Using the rolling pin, roll on top of the paper and clay until you make a smooth, flat slab about a half inch thick.

  8. Peel the wax paper away from the top of your slab, you can rip this part off if you like, but leave the paper on the bottom of the slab.

  9. print options | Yellow Scope
    Press your dinosaur feet, fingers, leaves from outside, or whatever (our cat, who was very interested in this whole process, volunteered her paws!)

  10. Transfer your paper and slab to a cutting board or other sturdy, portable surface so you can move it to a dry spot out of the way.

  11. Let the slab dry for a day or so (preferably in a warm, sunny area) and check out the results!
dinosaur footprints | Yellow Scope


A dinosaur footprint isn't a fossil in itself, because it's not an actual piece of the animal. It IS a fossil trace though, in other words, a clue that the animal existed and was active there.

human footprint mud | Yellow Scope

When you pressed your dinosaur toys (or other items) into your clay slab, you made an imprint, meaning you squished a shape into a surface. This is just what dinosaurs did simply by walking around, and like you might do walking on a muddy trail!

But why weren't dinosaur footprints just washed away with the rain? Well, many were, but sometimes, the mud had time to dry out. Sediment, which is tiny rocks and minerals that sink to the bottom of liquids, could then settle into and around the footprint over time.

dinosaur trackway | Yellow Scope

This sediment itself can dry and turn into a hard layer. Many more layers can stack on top of this one from landslides or just more sediment settling, and over thousands and even millions of years, the footprint is hidden deep in the layers of the ground.

But the land is constantly changing - earthquakes, weather and other factors may end up breaking apart those layers, revealing the path of the dinosaurs for all to see!

You can pretend to hide your fossil in layers too. Try clay or sand to cover your footprint and then brush it away to reveal the prints!


Let us know how your experiments turned out! Share your photos and results with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or send us an email to We love getting your messages!

For more exciting experiments, check out our Yellow Scope science kits on the Shop tab of our website!

Chelsea Schuyler
Chelsea Schuyler