Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spinosaurus Makeover

2014 was a great year for dinosaur fans.  One of the biggest highlights was a new study on our old friend, Spinosaurus.  The study suggests that this super-preditor didn't walk around on 2 feet; he walked on all fours.  But even more suprising is the conclusion that Spinosaurus lived a mainly aquatic lifestlye, similar to crocodiles and alligators today.

All this new evidence has dinosaur toy collectors chomping at the bit to get their hands on new Spinosaurus sculpts, reflecting the latest scientific informatoin.  That's the reasons I took the Papo Spinosaurs off my 2015 buying guide.  As beautiful as it is, it is now out of date.  You may as well wait for the next generation of figures to hit the market.

Collecta has aleady announced that they will release a new 1/40th scale Spinosaurus this year, based on the latest study.  From the pictures, it looks great:

If you want to get a Spinosaurus figure for your kid, just hold off for a bit.  The new Spinosaurus is on its way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Quick Start Guide

A lot has happened since I published my first quick start guide 2 years ago.  Its definitely about time for an update.  Here's a short review of each major brand that we've tried:

Battat: The Battat "Terra" series is absolutely my favorite line of dinosaur toys right now.  All of these figures have been meticulously researched and incorporate the latest scientific data into their design.  The entire line is at 1/40th scale.  They are sold exclusively at Target at a bargain basement price of $8 each.  The paint job isn't the best.  But given the accuracy and the price, you can't go wrong.  These figures really blur the lines between a toy and an educational tool.  I can't recommend them enough.

Bullyland: I bought my son 2 Bullyland figures (Ankylosaurus and Elasmosaurus) and both of them had problems with the paint scratching off.  It seems like Bullyland went the cheap route and only applied very thin coats of paint to their figures.  After a short time, the figures started to look beat up and worn.  Recently, I bought a Bullyland Lambeosaurus and that one is holding up better.  It's possible the the newer figures have improved in quality.

Carnegie: These figures tend to be one of the more scientifically accurate models on the market.  The biggest drawback is that many of their figures are not 1:40 scale.  The other concern I have is that the detailing and artistry in their sculpts is often hit or miss.  Durability is very good, though.

Collecta/Procon:  Collecta produces a "Deluxe" line of 1:40 scale models which are fairly nice, durable, and scientifically sound.  They also have a large "not-to-scale" line of figures containing some less common dinosaurs.  A few of these "not-to-scale" figures can fit into a 1:40 scale collection as well.  Collecta has done a great job of expanding their line to include some of the more obscure dinosaurs.

Papo: This company produces the nicest dinosaur toys on the market ... period.  In terms of artistry, detailing, and durability, I would rate Papo a 10.  The drawback with Papo is that they don't always pay close attention to scientific detail.  A few of their figures are downright wrong!  Others are simply great!

Safari: This company has really stepped up their game in recent years.  They've been doing more research on their dinosaur figures and improving their paint detailing as well.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to be committed to the 1/40th scale so most of their figures won't work for my son's collection.  However, the ones that do fit into the collection are very good.

Schleich:  Overall, I'd rate this company last.  Schleich just doesn't stand out in terms of scientific accuracy, artistry, or build quality.  They have produced a few decent figures but they don't seem to have any intention of improving their toys.

With that bit of background information under your belt, you're now ready to start choosing dinosaurs for your kid's collection.  If your kid has some favorites, then it's easy.  If you're in the dark about which dinosaurs to buy, this next section is for you.

Here's 25 dinosaurs to kick off your kid's collection:

1) Papo Tyrannosaurus Rex

No dinosaur collection would be complete without the most popular dinosaur of all time.  My son really loves his Papo Tyrannosaurus (seen above).  All of the Papo carnivore figures have articulated jaws, which is a brilliant way to up the fun factor.  Chomp!  Chomp!  Papo now offers 2 additional versions of T-Rex, seen here:

2) Papo Triceratops

Triceratops is probably the most popular herbivore.  Tyrannosaurus may want to steer clear of this bad boy.  Every brand makes a Triceratops.  We bought the Papo version (shown above).

3) Schleich Brachiosaurus (Giraffatitan)
If you're going to get a long neck, Brachiosaurus (Giraffatitan) is probably the one you want to start with.  There's nothing quite as majestic as a gigantic Brachiosaurus towering over all the other dinosaurs.  My son has the Schleich version and loves it.  Papo also came out with a Brachiosaurus in 2012 so that's another option.  Collecta has Brachiosaurus as well, but I didn't like their sculpt too much.

4) Collecta Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus is another "must" for any dinosaur collection.  Kids love to imagine him swinging his spiked tail to ward off meat eaters.  The Collecta Deluxe Stegosaurus is the most accurate version I could find:  He has 17 plates.  He has a neck pouch.  His tail spikes are facing outward instead of upward.  His tail is lifted off the ground, rather than dragging.  Nice job!

5) Carnegie Ankylosaurus

Ankylosaurs is a classic dinosaur.  The figure pictured above is from Carnegie.  If I could do it all over again, I'd buy this one. Unfortunately, I bought the Bullyland Ankylosaurus for my son. The paint on the Bullyland model began to scratch off immediately.  Avoid Bullyland.  Buy Carnegie instead.

6) Battat Cryolophosaurus

This "Frozen Crested Lizard" was the first carnivorous dinosaur found in Antarctica.  He was also one of the top predators of the early Jurassic period.  Battat is the only company to produce a cryolophosaurus at 1/40th scale.  Luckily, they did a fantastic job!

7) Papo Utahraptor (Papo Velociraptor)

I bought the Papo Velociraptor (shown above) and told my son it was a Utahraptor.  Like all the other Papo carnivores, this figure also has an articulated jaw.  Note that at 1/40th scale, this figure would represent an extremely large Utahraptor, almost twice the size of the largest described specimen.  However, the figure does match the size of the largest undescribed specimen.  The undescribed specimen may or may not be valid so it's a little "risky" to add this figure to a 1/40th scale collection.  There are other issues as well.  The tail should be longer and the hands shouldn't be pronated.  It is still a very nice figure and my son loves it.  But if you're a stickler for scientific accuracy, this may not be the figure for you.  Note that Battat plans to re-release their 1/40th scale Utahraptor at some point in time.  So if you are willing to wait, there will be more options available.

8) Papo Carnotaurus
Carnotaurus gained a lot of popularity from the movie "Dinosaur".  Papo's Carnotaurus is one of the best sculpts they've ever done.  It has an articulated jaw to boot.  Definitely go with Papo on this one!

9) Schleich Parasaurolophus
Parasaurolophus is one of the most famous duck billed dinosaurs.  He used his big crest like a musical instrument to produce loud "honks" (which my son loves to imitate).   I chose the Schleich version and am happy with it.  The Carnegie figure could be another good option.  I wouldn't recommend the Papo version because it has some blatant inaccuracies.

10) Carnegie Diplodocus
At over 100 feet in length, Diplodocus is sometime referred to as a walking suspension bridge.  This 1:40 scale figure is almost 2 feet long (even with his tail curled up).  I think Diplodocus is Carnegie's best sculpt.  I would definitely recommend this toy.

11) Papo Styracosaurus
This Styracosaurus is another beautiful sculpt by Papo.  It's scientifically very accurate too.  There are other options to choose from but you really can't go wrong with this one.

12) Papo Pachycephalosaurus

Pachycephalosaurs had a head like a crash helmet.  You can imagine what he did with it ... if not, your kid will show you.  There are not a lot of options for Pachycephalosaurus figures.  I would go with this one from Papo.

13) Carnegie Amargasaurus

Amargasaurus was a strange looking dinosaur.  He was a small sauropod with a double row of spines along his back.  This figure is interesting contrast to the gigantic sauropods like Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus.

14) Safari Gryposaurus

This "Hook Nosed Lizard" was a huge duckbill!  If you're looking for another Hadrosaur to add to your child's collection, this is a very nice option.

15) Safari Elasmosaurus

Elasmosaurus was a marine reptile that lived during the time of the dinosaurs.  I have the Bullyland Elasmosaurus, which I regret buying.  I would recommend getting the Safari Elasmosaurus (pictured above) instead.

16) Carnegie Iguanadon

Iguanodon was one of the first dinosaurs ever named and has enjoyed his share of fame for almost 200 years.  This isn't the most detailed figure but for historical reasons, I thought Iguanodon was a worthwhile buy.

17) Carnegie Tylosaurus

Tylosaurus is a large, meat eating marine reptile.  Having a big Mosasaur is a nice way to round out your child's pre-historic world.

18) Battat Pachyrhinosaurus

The "Walking With Dinosaurs" movies has made Pachyrhinosaurus somewhat of a star.  Battat's version is the most accurate and is the one I would recommend.  However, Papo does have a nice version as well. 

19) Battat Nanshiungosaurus
This bizarre dinosaur looked like a cross between Edward Scissorhands and a giant turkey.  No, that's not a mistake!  The animal really did look that weird!  Battat did a great job with this figure.

20) Papo Allosaurus

Allosaurus is another beautiful sculpt by Papo.  Great pose.  Articulated jaw.  Pretty accurate too!  Papo definitely gets it right with this one!

21) Papo Ankylosaurus (It's really a Euoplocephalus)
Euoplocephalus was probably the 4th largest member of the Ankylosaur family.  He's quite a bit smaller than Ankylosaurus.  It's nice being able to compare them side by side.

22) Battat Dacentrurus
Dacentrurus was a large member of the Stegosaur family.  He had a combination of plates and spikes down his back, along with a pair of spikes on his shoulders.  Battat does a great job, as usual.

23) Collecta Carcharadontosaurus

Carcharodontosaurs was another contender for the biggest meat eater.  This version, by Collecta, is very accurate, has a dynamic pose, and has a great "war paint" scheme going on.

24) Schleich Quetzalcoatlus

If you're looking to round out your kid's collection with a flying reptile, this is the best one I've found.  Quetzalcoatlus was the largest flying animal ever.  I think this version by Schleich is they nicest available.

25) Collecta Kosmoceratops

This recently discovered dinosaur had the fanciest frill of any of the ceratopsians.  He has 10 horns on the top of his frill and 5 more horns on his face.  This is one of my son's favorite dinosaurs to play with.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Battat Is Back!

From 1994 to 2002, a company called Battat produced the "Boston Museum of Science" line of 1/40th scale dinosaur figures.  The artists behind these figures researched each dinosaur carefully and based the models on the latest scientific information of the time.  Amazingly, many of these toy figures were so well done that they are still considered to be the most accurate mass market dinosaur toy sculpts ever produced.  Ever since the demise of the Boston Museum line in 2002, dinosaur toy enthusiasts have been longing for the day that some company would finally step up and match the standard that Battat set 2 decades ago ...

That day has finally come!  Battat is back in the dino toy business!

Battat is in the process of releasing their new "Terra" series of 1/40th scale dinosaur toys.  One of the original sculptors from the Boston Museum line (Dan LoRusso) is doing the new series.  In fact, the new series is subtitled as "The Dan LoRusso Colleciton".  Dan has taken the same approach of consulting with paleontologists and using the latest scientific information available to design the models.  Battat has an exclusive deal with Target so you will be able to get these high quality figures at your local Target for just $8 each.  The items are still being shipped out so some Target stores already have them on the shelves while others do not.  There are only 4 Battat dinosaurs available so far.  They are entirely new sculpts:





2 more new sculpts should be available soon:



I've seen the 4 Battat dinos released so far and they are great.  To be honest, the paint job is nowhere near as nice as what Papo delivers.  But in terms of accuracy, these can't be beat.  If I had the chance to start my child's collection all over again, this new line of Battat's would be the first place I'd start.

But wait!  There's more!  To top it off, Battat is planning to re-release the old Boston Museum of Science line with an all new paint jobs and updated detailing.  The good news just keeps on coming!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What's In A Name

One great thing about dinosaur names is that they all have a meaning.  Dinosaur names are composed of several root words.  If you understand the root words, you can understand the dinosaur's name.

Since my son became interested in dinosaur names, I began to teach him the root words through a name game.  I wanted to show him that he could figure out the dinosaur names logically, rather than just by memorization.  This was a great teaching opportunity because it got him thinking about words in general and how they could be deconstructed.

Here's an example of the name game we would play:

Question: What does "Dinosaur" mean?
Answer: "Dino" (or "Deino") means "Terrible".  "Saur" means "Lizard".  So "Dinosaur" means "Terrible Lizard".

Question: "Onychus" means "claw".  What does "Deinonychus" mean?
Answer: "Deino" means "terrible".  "Onychus" means "claw".  So "Deinonychus" means "Terrible Claw".

Question: "Pachy" means "thick".  "Rhino" means nose.  What does "Pachyrhinosaurus" mean?
Answer: "Pachy" means "thick".  "Rhino" means nose.  "Saurus" means "lizard".  So "Pachyrhinosaurus" means "Thick Nosed Lizard".

Question: "Euoplo" means "Well armored".  "Cephalus" means "Head".  What does "Euoplocephalus" mean?
Answer: "Well Armored Head"

Question: What does "Pachycephalosaurus" mean?
Answer:  "Pachy" mean "thick".  "Cephalo" means "head". "Saurus" means "lizard".  So "Pachycephalosaurus" means "Thick Headed Lizard".

Question: "Nothro" means "Slothful".  What does "Nothronychus" mean?
Answer: "Nothro" means "Slothful".  "Onychus" means "claw".  So "Nothronychus" means "Slothful Claw".

Question: "Ceras" means "horn". What does "Ceratosaurus" mean?
Answer:  "Cerato" means "horn".  "Saurus" means "lizard".  So "Ceratosaurus" means "Horned Lizard".

Question: "Tri" means "three".  "Ops" mean "face".  What does "Triceratops" mean?
Answer: "Tri" means "three".  "Cerat" means "horn".  "Ops" mean "face".  So "Triceratops" means "Three Horned Face"

Question: "Proto" mean first.  What does "Protoceratops" mean?
Answer: "Proto" means "first".  "Cerat" means "horn".  "Ops" means "face".  So "Protocertops" means "First Horned Face".

Etc ...

I've been doing these name games with my son for over a year now.  It's still challenging for him but he really enjoys it.  After we started playing this name game, it finally occurred to me why a rhinoceros is called a "Rhinoceros".  "Rhino" means nose.  "Ceros" means horn.  "Rhinoceros" = "Nose Horn".

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Big, Small, Short, Tall

One thing I really wanted to do for my son was to create a dinosaur collection that was all based on one scale (1/40th).  That way, he could look at his toys and immediately get a sense of the size differences between the dinosaurs in real life.  As an added bonus, Schleich gives you a 1/40th scale figure of a man to go along with their dinosaur figures.  So not only can my son compare the dinosaurs to each other, he can also compare them to me.

Even young children can understand the concept of scale.  All they need to do is compare the figures to each other and be able to say, "If Daddy was this big, then Carnotaurus would be this big, and Brachiosaurus would be this big!"

With that concept under their belt, they can begin to answer basic questions about the dinosaurs in their collection.  When my son was 3 years old, I gave him easier questions like "Who's taller?  Tyrannosaurus or Styracosaurus?" and "Who's longer?  Spinosaurus or Diplodocus?".  My son would place the dinosaurs side by side, compare them, and give me the answer.  I love simple games like these because it teaches kids how to make relative measurements while they're learning more about dinosaurs.

Small children might need help measuring the dinosaurs and this is a great way to get them interested in learning that skill.  For measuring height, they learn to stand the dinosaurs next to each other.  For measuring length, they learn to place the dinosaurs parallel to each other and line up either their heads or tails.

As your child gets more advanced, you can even introduce the concept of multiplication.  For example, you can show that Stegosaurus is about two times longer than Kentrosaurus.  You just need to use Kentrosaurus as a measuring stick and measure Stegosaurus.  Or you could show that Brachiosaurus is about 3 times as tall as Triceratops.

Now that my son has had his dinosaur collection for over a year, he's able to visualize the dinosaur sizes in his head.  He can tell me who's taller or who's longer without looking at the figures.  One day, out of the blue, I tried quizzing him on questions like this.  I was surprised that he got every one correct.  He loved playing this quiz game and it made him very proud that he knew so much about dinosaurs.

Friday, May 31, 2013

I am a Paleontologist

Here's a great song for dino fans young and old!  "I am a Paleontologist", by They Might Be Giants:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Counting With Dinos

One of the great things about dinosaur toys is that they provide ample opportunities to teach your child something new.  One of the first games I played with my son involved counting.  I'd ask him questions like "How many horns does Triceratops have?", "How many fingers does Tyrannosaurus have on each hand?", How many feet does Ankylosaurus have?", "How many spikes does Stegosaurus have on its tail?", etc.  My son would happily start counting and I was happy to teach him when he needed help.

Counting isn't just about reciting a series of numbers.  When you start to count objects, you need to do it in an organized way.  Counting dinosaur fingers is somewhat easy because it's just like counting your own fingers.  Kids learn to point to each finger as they count.  Counting dinosaur legs is a bit trickier with 4 legged dinosaurs.  You could count them clockwise, counterclockwise, back to front, front to back, left to right, right to left, or even zig-zag.  You need to make sure you count every leg and also be sure that you don't count any legs twice.   Being able to spatially organize objects in your head is a skill that needs to be learned.  Dinosaurs provide a variety of objects in different spatial configurations that are ripe for counting: fingers, claws, horns, spikes, toes, etc.

Now you can ask my son, "How many fingers does a Pachycephalosaurus have?", "How many claws does Diplodocus have on its front feet?", or "How many horns does a Kosmoceratops have?", and he can give you the correct answers without looking at his dinosaur toys.  It turns out that he didn't just learn to count, he learned a lot about dinosaur anatomy as well.  It actually shocked me that he knew how many fingers Carnotaurus had.  I didn't know myself!  That was something he learned all on his own.  He must have been studying his Carnotaurus figure and counting behind my back!