*The links in this post that direct you to Amazon are affiliate links. This means that I will earn a very tiny commission if you choose to buy something. :)
“Better with me than with Jeff Bezos” is what I like to say. ;)
I’ve never known a kid as dino-obsessed as my Alex (pictured) is. He’s three now, but for Christmas a couple years ago his older brother, Kiran, received a remote controlled walking T-Rex (click for Amazon link). This thing was super cool - its eye lit up. He stomped through the house while roaring. Way cool. At first, Alex was terrified of it but quickly warmed up to it and insisted the toy was his. His obsession took off from there and now, about two years later, he still is exclusively interested in dinosaurs. We’ve tried to turn him onto just about anything else and have been unsuccessful.
Alex would spend hours just standing his dinosaurs up and then moving them to a new location just to do the same thing all over again. Adorable and was an awesome quiet activity that he did alone and also with others just as well. A year in, though, we’d exhausted all dinosaur-related-everything. Movies, toys, books. You name it. If we happened to stumble on something new, we’d buy it just to have something new-to-us to hear/see/watch.
I got the idea to create a life-like, 3-D, terrain / ‘world’ for Alex and Kiran to play with their dinosaur that might help their imaginations reach a little further. One day, weeks later, I was driving by Hobby Lobby and they were having a major store-closing sale so I did a quick U-turn and went in to see what was left. I bought everything I needed (pictured) there and at Home Depot (the square board and ‘legs’ I got at Home Depot, everything else came from Hobby Lobby).
To build up the ‘mountains’ and ‘volcano’ I crumbled up a paper grocery bag, wrapped it in take and then taped it to the board. I just used the first light-weight material I could get my hands on.
I mixed up the paper mâché / plaster-like material to mold the mountains, volcano and to cover the terrain to give it some texture - I just slapped it on right overtop of the crumbled up grocery bag. I wet my hands with water to smooth everything out and then waited a couple hours for it to dry. You can buy that plaster-like crap here (click for amazon link).
For the water, I first painted it blue using an acrylic paint and then poured a thin later of clear glue over it so that it with dry with a shiny, translucent finish.
For the mountains and volcano, I went outside in my yard and dug a small hole… I brought in the dirt and mixed in the clear glue I bought creating a muddy paste. I put some plastic gloves on, scooped it out of the bowl, plopped it onto the plaster and covered the “mountain/rock” areas with this muddy goop. I also grabbed some mulch pieces as they looked a lot like miniature rocks you’d see on cliffs. When the ‘mud’ was still wet I pushed the mulch pieces into it, in various spots, along the side and bottom of the mountains and along the water. Here’s something similar to the glue I used (click for Amazon link).
For the ‘lava’ I used a bottle of red acrylic paint and let it flood out of the top and run down the side. As it turned out, this wasn’t the best idea because the “inside/ top of the volcano took FOREVER to dry. My son put a dinosaur in the top of the volcano, pulled it out with wet paint and proceeded to trot his dinosaur over our living room rug. O_O So, don’t do that. lol If I did this again, I would let the paint drizzle down the side and then paint a thin layer of red paint along the inside, separately, so it wouldn’t take so long to dry all the way through.
Lastly, I applied this really cool peel and stick moss/grass stuff I found to the areas between the mountains and hot-glued the trees/bushes. This moss stuff, while very cool, was VERY messy. I’m still finding that crap everywhere. Again, if I could do it over again, I’d find a material that didn’t come apart so easily. This is the mossy stuff I used, if you dare.(click for Amazon link) lol
Overall, I was quite pleased with how this came out and it has made for hours of fun for both my 3 y/o and 7 y/o to play together.