Play Food & Science: Did Humans Eat Ammonites?

This morning, our daughter screamed for us to come and look at what she made us for breakfast.

“It’s ancient food! It’s what people ate a long, long time ago!”

MMMM…..delectable!  Not recommended for people with dentures.  Or teeth.  :)

She had pulled various rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils from the kids’ natural sensory collection.  When we walk shorelines or any plot of land, they pick up interesting rocks to add to it.  It makes our walks fun.

Minerals, Shells, & Fossils Sensory Collection

This was as good a time as any for a science lesson.

We pulled out our favorite book about fossils.  I cannot resist a good kid science book.  I think we might have bought this one, Fossils:  An Extraordinary World Close-Up, before our daughter was even born.

This book has a built-in timeline that shows when ammonites existed in relation to other forms of life.  It lists the timeframe as between 251 million and 65 million years ago.

How could I translate this to our daughter so she might understand?

I checked  the Smithsonial National Museum of Natural History site to learn about what timeframes humans (homo sapiens) first emerged:

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

It said that homo sapiens evolved in Africa and that they lived from about 200,000 years ago to present day.

Here’s what we did together to figure out if humans really did eat ammonites…..

We used popsicle sticks to represent our timeline.

I asked my daughter how long she thought one hundred million years was….

“It’s a lot.  It’s like one thousand years!!!!!!”

Time is a hard thing to conceptualize for a kid-  even for adults, I think.

Learning the amount of time was not important but maybe we could compare the relative time that humans had been alive to the amount of time that ammonites were alive.

  • Each popsicle stick represented one hundred million years.
  • The ammonites were alive for 2 and a half popsicle sticks.
  • Some dinosaurs were alive for about one stick.
  • And then ammonites and dinosaurs became extinct.  There’s a gap.
  • Half a popsicle stick later, and for one, little, itty, bitty moment-  humans came alive and are still here.

There we are.  That little black line on the end of the last popsicle stick.

Our daughter could place her entire hand on the popsicle sticks for the ammonite’s existence but not even a single finger could fit on the little line for that of humans.

Some of the questions we toyed with:

Did humans eat ammonites?

Sure!  They chopped them up and heated them in the microwave.

No, really.  Were humans alive when the ammonites were alive?

We referred to the timeline for that.  After counting the sticks, she understood the gap between ammonites and humans showed how long the ammonites had been extinct.

Who was/is alive longer on Earth?

That’s when she used her hands and fingers to measure the length of the sticks to determine that ammonites had been around for much, much longer than humans.

And this activity led us to choose  The Extinct Alphabet Book as our pre-nap book.

By the end of the morning, we had done a few interesting exercises.  When our daughter awoke, she invited her family to a play food party.

She still served us ammonite fossils, but said, “I know these are extinct but you’re going to pretend to eat them anyway.”

And we did.

They were very pretend-delicious.

Any Other Ideas On How To Help Kids Understand Time?


8 Responses to Play Food & Science: Did Humans Eat Ammonites?

  1. Wow! Very nice “teachable moment!” You are FABULOUS teacher-mother! I loved what you did to try and explain this abstract information in a more concrete way! AWESOME!

    I also love the reminder to me, in particular, as a mom, that most important things in our day involve making ordinary things we do, a teachable moment, something constructive for our stay-at-home children or when our children come home. The house, the dishes, sometimes MUST wait! ;-) Thanks for sharing! Hugs!

    • Coming from a teacher, that is about the best compliment I can imagine, Elizabeth. I’m not a teacher, but I’ve always loved learning. I hope my kids will, too. We do a lot of imaginative and playful playing, too- But, we love those “teachable moments”. Sadly, the thing that suffers most in my house is my laundry so I can do those things. But, we’ve got a lot of clothing to get us by. haha! Thanks for commenting!!!

  2. The popsicle sticks were genius! Kids need visuals, especially to understand something as intangible as time. I really have to see if our crappy library has the “Extinct Alphabet” book. Thanks for the introduction. You rock at teaching!

    • Thanks, Nami!!! The book is cool and not a dinosaur in it! I don’t know if I rock at teaching. I just love learning. And I think my kids do, too! :)

  3. This is why I love you – nerdin’ out with your kids, who love nerdin’ out, too. I had so much fun reading through this. Reminds me of stuff I did with my mom as a kid and hope that one day I will get it together to do this with my little ones. Btw, your daughter still naps? Lucky you!!!

    • Me? A Nerd? Actually, that is a great compliment. Thanks! That makes me a dork, too. haha! My kids still nap, sometimes. If they don’t, they are in their room for an hour for “quiet time”. They can read books in bed if they want. But, it gives me some time to take care of some things during the day. :)

  4. When I went on my trip, the very next day, Hubby moved my son into my daughter’s room. Can’t believe it worked. (And that I wasn’t part of it). So now when I try the quiet time thing, they’re in their bed and crib. And they have their books. But it’s my daughter throwing about 30 books into my son’s crib and them laughing crazily about the whole thing. Wish wish wish my daughter was a napper!

    • My kids are slowly outgrowing their naps- but then, around 5 or 6, if we are in the car, they rack out! Just a couple of hours before bedtime. But, they’ll still go to bed at 8. I think that means they still need them! :) Funny about the books. My kids share a room, too!

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