Evolution 4 kids!

I seem to be at that life stage where heaps of your friends are having kids all around you. As well as general support and friendship, I try to give thoughtful gifts that can help educate as well as entertain, and anything with some good “evolutionary biology” flavour (with the science portrayed accurately), is extra awesome!

For very young kids, there is a great Kickstarter that is making soft toys of iconic extinct animals from the Palaeozoic Era, called “Paleozoic Pals”. And they are not just for kids, but also the young at heart (I have a couple myself). Of course my favourite one is the “fish-apod”, Tiktaalik from the Devonian Period (pictured here with our lovely Bearded Dragon, Peggy).

Tiktaalik and Peggy

Something else for pre-schoolers is my absolute favourite go-to, the “Grandmother Fish” book.  It conveys a complex idea using simple language and beautiful illustrations, and encourages some cute audience participation too. There is even a helpful section at the back to help parents and carers answer some common questions about evolution. The same group have also made a card game called Clades, but I’m yet to play it myself.

Once the kids get to Primary School age then there are a lot more options available. My colleague, Prof. John Long, has been prolific in writing books during his career, with a number of titles for children. Check out “The Big Picture Book”, “Its True! Dinosaurs Never Died!” or my favourite, “Gogo Fish! The story of the Western Australian State fossil emblem.”

I stumbled across a palaeontologist who calls herself “Dr Neurosaurus” who hosts a fantastic site with palaeontology news for kids in both English and Spanish. Dr Neurosaurus (Eugenia Gold) also co-authored a book called “She Found Fossils” which celebrates women palaeontologists from around the world, both past and present.  I think the book is a fantastic initiative, even though I think her coverage of Australian palaeontologists had some conspicuous omissions (Kate Trinajstic, Pat Rich and Anne Warren all spring to mind!).

For more of a focus on Australian palaeontology, there is a great book published by Danielle Clode by Museums Victoria called “From Dinosaurs to Diprotodons: Australia’s Amazing Fossils.” In it you can visit iconic fossil sites across Australia, and travel through time from the Devonian to the Pleistocene learning about megafauna, dinosaurs and ancient armoured fishes.  There is even a helpful section at the back listing museums or fossil centres where you can go for more information (in every state in Australia).

And who could forget Professor Flint? The singing palaeontologist of Dinosaurs Downunder! Check out his Facebook page to see upcoming events. In this video, Prof. Flint introduces you to one of the amazing Gogo placoderm fish (and the tune that goes along with it!)

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