Footprints and Trackways
Help your child learn about the different kinds of footprints that animals leave behind.
- Target Age: 3-6
- Learning Goals: science, nature, art
- Related Episode: Episode 119: King Cryolophosaurus / Buddy the Tracker
- Mystery Footprints printable page
- Comparing Dinosaur Trackways printable page
- T.Rex footprint printable page
- butcher block paper
- small paint roller (such as for linoleum block prints) OR small paint pads
- washable painting clothes
- Show printout “Mystery Footprints” page. Ask your child to see if he can identify any of the animals to which these prints belong. If he is stumped, reveal the animal names one at a time and ask, “Which of these footprints do you think was made by a dog?” Put a check next to each footprint as it is identified.
- Explain that one of the ways we know about dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago is by looking for fossils of footprints. Not only were dinosaur bones preserved from millions of years ago – but also some of their footprints. If a dinosaur stepped in mud or sand, sometimes this imprint was later preserved in stone. Dinosaur footprints are very rare – but some have been found. Scientists have a special name for a group of animal footprints: trackways. Ask your child to think about what information you can learn about an animal by seeing its trackways (versus just one or two footprints). You can learn how fast the animal may have walked, for example by looking at how far apart the footprints are.
- Watch the video clip from “Buddy the Tracker” (above). Discuss what kinds of details Buddy and the others noticed. How many toes did the animal have? What was the shape of their feet? How big were the footprints? How far apart were its steps?
- Help your child create his own T. rex trackways (footprints). Print out two copies of the “Make a T. rex Trackway” page, glue them to pieces of cardboard, then cut them out. Attach a horizontal strap across each T. rex “footprint” so your child can “wear” them and stomp across the floor like a T. rex. Explain that an adult T. rex footprint was much larger (about 3 feet long) but the picture on the page is the same shape of a young T. rex footprint.
- Roll up pant legs (if necessary) and use a paint roller to apply paint on bottom of each “footprint”. Have your child walk across a long piece of butcher block paper to create a trackway that a Tyrannosaurus might have left.
Take it Further
- On a hot day, you can have fun creating foot and handprints with nothing more than a light-colored sidewalk and water. Have your child wet his feet before walking on the sidewalk as a way for others to see his path. He can play a game in which he challenges his friends to walk in his footprints.
- Explore a muddy, sandy, or snow-covered section of ground in your area. See if your child can you find any animal footprints. Take along a camera to take pictures of any animal tracks your child finds, or he can use a notebook and pencil to make a sketch of any discoveries. You can later take your child to the library to find field guides of local wildlife to see if you can identify the tracks he found.
- Another fun way to make animal tracks is to create a “stamp” by cutting an uncooked potato in half, or cutting a kitchen sponge into the shape of animal prints, and using paint on this stamp to create various track ways.