Dad's Freak-Shop

Entertaining kids is hard. Here's how you do it.

This Freak Dad is Now a GeekDad

For the better part of a year or more, my kid-friendly ramblings can now be found over at and the GeekDad blog. No more anonymous posting into the interwebs!

Downloadable Coloring Pages Evolved

Personally, I can't stand the lame-ass pictures that pass for "free downloadable coloring pages" out there on the interwebs. My daughter was drawing better pictures when she was 5. I abandoned commercial coloring books long ago because the coloring book artists and publishers abandoned me! Such crap is not worthy of pulping trees for. Care a teensy bit and the drawings would be a thousand times better. And the internet is no rescue either.

Is it too much to ask for a decent colorable black line picture of dinosaur?! Almost makes me want to whip out my pen and… Ah, the hell with it, here are some better-than-lame dino images courtesy of some quick Photoshop tricks for your downloading and coloring pleasure. Oh yeah, the kids can have them too. Right-click, and "save as."

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Fossil Hunt!

Combine your own homemade bones with wet sand to make your own fossil dig!

If there is anything more fun to play with than wet sand, I haven't found it. The pleasure of running your fingers and feet through the grains is coded into our DNA from the earliest days when life crawled from the seas onto the beaches. Ahh. And now that it is finally spring, of course it's time to go fossil hunting!

And who doesn't love fossils? Organic matter is covered in layers of minerals. The organic matter decays and the void is filled with the surrounding minerals and rock - to keep thousands of paleontologists employed millions of years later. Fossils are embedded in a matrix - a layer of minerals and rock. To make your own fossil dig, you need two things: bones and dirt.

The alterations are endless. You could collect road kill carcasses for authenticity, and I suppose you could make something out of modeling clay, but you have to leave the house for such things. For this session, we will make some delicious bleached bones out of good old-fashioned dough.

The matrix is plain ol' wet sand. You will need at least one 50 lb. bag of play sand and a plastic storage container. If you've already got a sandbox, great. You can also use a plastic kiddie pool. I built a 2' x 4' box with some 1" x 12" planks and a plywood bottom for future digs. But for a quick outing, we used a 20 x 15 x 6 (or thereabouts) plastic storage container.

Play-Dough Bones


White glue
Small paint brush

Mix a 2:1 mixture of flour and salt. Add water in tiny increments until the dough clings together and is no longer sticky. Have your little bone hunter dig their hands in and mush it up. Knead the dough ball for a while until it is a good "play-doh" consistency. 1.5 cups of flour to .75 cups of salt will give you a good sized ball of dough for making more bones than you can bury!

Mold the dough into your favorite bone shapes. This is where it gets fun. You can make your typical caveman style club bone, or get really fancy and look at pictures of dinosaur fossils and sculpt away! (My favorite is making sharp teeth and claws.) Or, you can take your favorite dinosaur toys and make deep impressions.

[Freshly made bones fossilizing before our eyes.]

Tips: Stretch the dough a bit to get a more natural look. Break off an end to give it a more realistic appearance. Use some tools to give the pieces some detail.

Let your bones air-dry completely. This will take a day or so. turn them over when the top gets hard so the bottom will dry.

Once the pieces are dry, brush them each with something that will seal them. You can concoct a mixture of liquid starch, white glue, and a few drops of tempera paint if you're fossil hunters are feeling funky. Or, a simple combination of white glue and water does the trick to. (Hint: Wood glue will give you an authentic brownish sheen.) This will seal the dough and keep it from getting too soft again once it gets wet (just wait!).

The Matrix


Plastic storage container
50 lbs. play sand

Set up your plastic storage container and throw down a 1-inch layer of sand. Pour in enough water to make it wet and clumpy - just like making sandcastles at the beach! This is where your little bone-digger can help too. Mix it up and scatter a layer of bones. Dump enough dry sand to cover and pour in some water to clump it up. Pack it down. Scatter in another layer of bones. Dump more sand and water. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until your container is full and you have layers of fossils representing millions of years of evolutionary history.

[The passage of time. Animals die, and are covered in layers of silt and sand for millions of years. Permineralization occurs. Hey, there is even real stratification! Fossil field ready for paleontological survey.]

Get to Work!

Now the fun part. You can start digging right away, or let it dry for a while, a day, or two. Mix in some backyard dirt, mulch, rocks, or whatever to make it a bit more interesting. Hell, you can even use reg'lar dirt for the whole thing and make a big freakin' mess! (Hey yeah! Where's my spade shovel...)

[Eureka! A new species of thunder lizard!]

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Capture a Spiderweb!

Geek-dad, the new techno-blog over at Wired, has a great method for capturing spiderwebs. It's just getting to be spring-like here in the east, but I cannot wait to start a collection. We often get some way-big orb spider webs between the pillars of our porch here at the Freak-Shop.

This is me.

This is me. For now. I am a Dad trying to keep his kids entertained while hanging on to whatever shreds are left of his sanity. I am really just a big kid who needs to be entertained. So the cooler it is for me, the more fun it is for them.

The last thing I want this to be is yet another parent blog, or worse, another Dad blog! I hope to post lots of cool projects that I've done in the past with my daughter, adapted versions I've done with my son, and in-progress things that are just ongoing experiments. Since I've now taken to snapping photos as projects take shape, this seems as good a place as any to post them.