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I don’t know whether its in the bones (excuse the pun) but ever since he could toddle about, my little boy has been fascinated with anatomy and bones. Fortunately for us I am a trained archaeological bone specialist and have had an interest in animal bones since I was a child.
From a young age I used to pour over a book on animal skulls which was essentially the collection of a teenage boy. I cant find this book at the moment but I am sure its lurking somewhere, anyone else remember it? Lots of illustrations of different animals which you could prepare yourself? I think it may have been by Richard Steel…
This book spurred me on to collect skulls and so I built up a mini collection of bird and small mammal skulls I found in various habitats, some with bits of flesh slightly desiccated and stuck to them. If I ever stumble upon an owl pellet it’s like striking gold, even now. In Australia I acquired a Quokka skull, it has pride of place in my collection. In my former job I used to meet loads of metal detectorists and they would often appear at the museum doors with carrier bags of animal bones to gift to me. Ploughed fields are a brilliant place to find mammal bones, especially those of farm animals. All this means I’ve got a pretty good bone reference collection which the boy is envious of and takes every opportunity to look at and learn. Finally something to engage him!
All of this is very good for the likes of me (even in the archaeological and natural history world there aren’t that many of us!). If your child shows an interest in anatomy and bones where can you go? How do you inspire their interest? There are lots you can do at home very easily, for the purposes of this blog I’ll try to be succinct and mix human and animal bones but I am in the process of writing a blog chock full of archaeological based activities especially for kids and you’ll be able to find a lot more detail and specifics on there.
Personally I reckon books are a brilliant place to start, but ones that identify British mammals and birds are few and far between. I use this book loads but its very expensive. Google image searches can be quite good but make sure you run them before you let your child see the results! I recently bought this book about human bones for £1.99 and its brilliant for kids once they have an understanding of the basic plan of a mammal they can apply that to lots of bones.
The next step would be to seek out museums where they can have a look at bones and if you are lucky handle them. In London the obvious places are The Natural History Museum and the British Museum, but also think laterally the Museum of London for example. Many local history museums have skeletons on display, both human and animal. Get your child to draw them and discuss them during your visit.
Train your kids to keep their eyes peeled when you take them into the countryside. Some of my best specimens have been found on the beach. You can also find owl pellets in old barns and taking them home and dissecting them will result in loads of small mammal specimens. Again, drawing them will provide endless activities and provoke discussion.
For Christmas we invested in a Revell skeleton model this has proved really useful and is a ‘safe’ way to look at bones. One of the things I do with the model is to get the children to look at the bones and then try to feel their own; elbows, ribs and the frontal part of the skull can be felt really easily.
Make your own skeleton jigsaw puzzle, again, do a Google image search for a mammal skeleton and this will provide the template. If you are not feeling crafty you can find loads of examples on Amazon.
These are just a few ideas, I hope they have provided a start. Bones are brilliant, get looking and discussing! You never know, your child mind end up being an archaeologist, anatomist or a famous scientist.