Dinosaur Christmas Gift Ideas: The Best Toys for Children Who Love Prehistoric Animals

Kristin Hugo

For the real dinosaur nerd in your life, not just any dinosaur holiday gift will do. If you buy them an outdated or inaccurate raptor model, the well-referenced recipient may grumble that “it doesn’t have enough feathers” or “the wrists are pronated.” They might even take a picture and post the offending object to the dinosaur-reconstruction-critique blog Palaeofail.

Controversy over mainstream dinosaur reconstructions came to a head around the release of the film Jurassic World, which left several scientists disappointed. Although many acknowledge that the film was fun to watch, some dinosaur enthusiasts were unhappy that advancements in paleontological knowledge did not seem to influence dinosaur designs. The way the animals were depicted, they griped, didn’t reflect what we know about how dinosaurs actually looked and behaved.

But can accurate dinosaur designs be as fun as the dinosaurs in the movies? Creative dinosaur enthusiasts have been doing their best to prove that you don’t have to compromise education for entertainment by making their own paleontologist-approved objets d'art. Take a look at this gift guide to decide for yourself.

Toys

Dromaeosaur_Toys

Beasts of the Mesozoic velociraptor and other dromaeosaur action figures. David Silva

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Beasts of the Mesozoic
Velociraptors and other dromaeosaurs, accurately-feathered and articulated for posing. 
$35.00-$40.00
Recommended for: Adults and Kids

Safari Ltd dinosaurs
Not always as scientifically detailed as die-hard dino fans would like, but Safari Ltd has affordable, decently well-feathered, and biologically diverse animals in their dinosaur line (plus some cool, weird Pleistocene mammals.)
$3.00-$25.00
Recommended for: Kids

Games

Saurian

Playable characters in Saurian. Saurian

Saurian
In the self-proclaimed “world’s most accurate dinosaur simulator,” you can play as a dinosaur in an open-world environment called the Hell Creek Formation. The team is so dedicated to paleontological accuracy that they include a paleo-related FAQ on their website.
$20.00 for early access on Steam (note that the Steam winter sale starts December 21)
Recommended for: Adults

Plush

anzu

Anzu wyliei, sometimes referred to as the "Chicken from Hell," in plush form. Rebecca Groom of Palaeoplushies

Palaeoplushies
Indie toy creator Rebecca Groom creates scientifically-accurate stuffed dinosaurs, occasionally selling at conferences and on Kickstarter. Currently there is only one complete dinosaur plush product in the store, though.  
$73.41 for Anzu Wyliei (plus shipping from Scotland)
Recommended for: Adults

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Books

Dinosaur Art II
Paleoart is constantly being updated, but you can’t get much more up-to-date than this book of dinosaur illustration published in October of 2017.
$40.00
Recommended for: Adults

Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved
This book is an ultimate guide to dinosaurs and their history written by paleontology experts. It includes info on their morphology, behavior, evolution, and how new technology and discoveries teach us more about these animals every day.
$20.36
Recommended for: Adults

Dinosaur_Empire

Dinosaur Empire! By Abby Howard Abby Howard

Dinosaur Empire!
Not strictly nonfiction—it involves some time travel—this graphic novel shows dinosaurs in the Mesozoic, with a fun storyline and up-to-date dino drawings.
$11.12
Recommended for: Kids

Swag

phonecase

A drawing of Archaeopteryx, the "first bird," on a phone case. Franz Anthony of Studio 252MYA

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Studio 252 MYA
Dedicated paleoartists have merchandised their sciencey art by selling it on mugs, shirts, posters and other swag. Since the gifts are made-to-order, consider the holiday shipping deadlines.

Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus, a relative of Triceratops, on a Permia shirt. Permia

Permia
Paleontologist-confirmed accurate cards, stickers and clothing, featuring colorful extinct animals and their skeletons.

Museum Experiences

This gift is highly dependent on where you live, but consider your nearest natural history museum’s dinosaur section or tour that you can bring your giftee to. A nearby museum might even be doing a special exhibit to tie-in to the upcoming Jurassic World film.
Recommended for: Adults and Kids

David Silva, the toy-designer who created Beasts of the Mesozoic, believes that there is plenty of demand for dinosaur products that are both fun and accurate, and it’s not just a niche trend. He also believes that people should have access to memorable, yet realistic, dinosaur reconstructions.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that these animals actually existed,” he said. “There’s been centuries of discoveries leading up to how we interpret these animals….what I wanted to do was make them fun, make them accessible.”

Silva notes that science in general is becoming more popular among the public. But will Hollywood ever catch up? In the first Jurassic World film, the geneticist character Henry Wu, who created the dinos in the park, explains why he made them unlike the actual ancient beasts that existed millions of years ago: “You didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth.”

Dinosaur film directors, take note: you can have both. 

This article was first written by Newsweek

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