Dinosaur DNA (Review)

When we go on holiday to Lyme Bay, we always enjoy exploring the Jurassic Coast and trying to find fossils from millions of years ago. Of course, we rarely succeed so usually end up buying one of those fossil digging kits. You know, the ones which aren't actually very good and children get bored of?

Last week we were sent such a kit, albeit with a twist, and we were blown away by how superior it was to most others.

Dinosaur DNA fossil kit

The Stegosaurus Dinosaur DNA kit from Great Gizmos is a really good interactive toy which has a multi-element aspect to it. Not only can children complete an 'archaeological dig' emulating the skills of a paleontologist, but they will also recover a test-tube with a DNA helix sticker in it which, when added to the playmats and used in conjunction with the app, bring the dinosaur to life through the power of Augmented Reality!

Inside the box is a lump of plaster (containing eight plastic dinosaur bones and a test-tube of 'dinosaur DNA'), a plastic hammer and chisel set, with a brush to carefully help expose the 'bones'. There is also two playmats with a missing segment of the border, this is where the DNA helix stickers are added to complete a readable code which the app can pick up when it scans the mat. Comprehensive instructions and tips are also included.

The plaster is relatively easy to chisel away at, and the hammer also incorporates a knife into the handle (all plastic) which can help to 'saw' through larger sections of the block. Spraying the block with water can apparently help make digging easier, but we decided not to try that as we didn't want to deal with wet plaster. Advise is given in the accompanying leaflet to keep a damp cloth handy to clear dust away, but we actually used a handheld vacuum cleaner which was far more effective in keeping the powder down to a minimum.

It took a couple of hours after school over the course of a few days, but once the bones were revealed we were able to use the provided wax block to help us assemble our 'glow-in-the-dark' model. Everyone who visisted the house during that time had to have a turn at being a paleontologist, donning the necessary safety goggles to keep our eyes protected from the plaster dust.

Dinosaur DNA by Great Gizmos

The app is free to download (although add-ons can be purchased) and works by scanning the mat, picking up the pattern around the border and then creating the relevant moving image using Augmented Reality, in this case a Stegosaurus! What's great is that you can even 'act' with the dinosaur (like in a green screen situation) and pretend to be frightened by it! There is a bonus playmat which has a mystery scene, ours was a tornado above a science research station, The Boy thought it was brilliant!

The app allows for videos to be made of the experience of meeting a dinosaur, and these can be shared with friends via various social media platforms. We loved exploring the different elements of the app, and although it was a little difficult at times to keep the dinosaur within the camera aperture and the iPad not drop the reading from the chart, it was a very good effect once we worked out the trick.

I am thoroughly impressed with the Dinosaur DNA kit as it is so much more than just a digging kit; it taps into children's love of exploring with their fascination with technology and fulfills both criteria well. The Boy enjoyed the experience a great deal and has taken the playmats outside several times to try and get a dinosaur walking around the garden, I don't know what the neighbours must be thinking!

The Dinosaur DNA kit is available from Great Gizmos for £14.95 RRP.

We were sent this product for the purpose of this review, our opinion is honest and unbiased.

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