At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Boneyard, kids can discover the world of paleontology while burning off excess energy in a playground environment of slides, climbs and dig pits surrounded by authentic re-castings of dinosaur skeletons and various dig equipment. After entering the Boneyard, make your way across a bridge that is straddled by an enormous brachiosaurus skeleton to a large shaded, pebble pit.
Over the years we spent many hours aiding in the recovery of a mastodon there. As a mom, I enjoyed the shaded zone with ample seating along the pit’s boulders while my little dude had a blast removing buckets of pebbles from the mastodon skeleton. Sometimes he would uncover the bones and other times he would cover the exposed bones. So we were excited by the invitation to play with Uncle Milton’s Prehistoric Safari Virtual Explorer.
During the first of the kit’s four expedition activities, we chipped and brushed away at the large gray rock formation using the included hammer and chisel. My little guy and I took turns, switching responsibilities. Sometimes I would hammer the rock to reveal bones letting him brush away the dust and other times he’d hammer. We had fun using the chisel to create large fissures in the rock. As soon as some of the light color of the bones appeared we’d speculate on which bone we were uncovering. The rock is made of a chalk like substance so while it did get all over our hands and my dude’s legs we had no trouble washing it off.
We spent more than 20 minutes hammering, chipping and dusting to reveal the various pieces of the T-Rex skeleton. We thoroughly cleaned the bones and referencing the included Explorer Activity Guide we assembled the skeleton.
In preparation for the next portion, I downloaded the free app to our Galaxy phone (it’s also available for iPhone) and popped the phone into the kit’s included VR goggles. Within the application are two paths of exploration – Virtual Dino Explorations and Virtual 3D Dinosaurs models -- each using the enclosed image cards to launch the fun. The nine cards feature skeleton bones on one side and an image of different dinosaurs on the other such as triceratops or spinosaurus. The Explorer Activity Guide helps you find your way through these adventures as the steps can only be unlocked in the order on the guide. It's amazing to see the card in your hand seemingly pop alive when viewed through the goggles. We did have a bit of a challenge correctly rotating the card so we could view the model from all sides but we were able to get it working well enough.
However, the Virtual Dino Explorations offers a completely different experience. Holding the card to his goggles, my little dude was quickly immersed in the land of the dinosaurs. As his little head moved around he could view the world surrounding him. He described a river, tall trees, and the sun shining. Suddenly he called out that he could see a pteranodon flying above. Then he jumped as we heard a roar. He looked around and saw the Tyrannosaurus Rex. An exclamation point appeared, revealing a piece of information about the featured dinosaur. Each of the nine dinosaurs has several facts to discover during your expedition. Your explorer will need to be an independent reader as they are not read-aloud. During my time exploring I enjoyed watching a pair of triceratops protect their nest. It isn’t hyper-realistic animation, but it is full-color imagery with sparkling rivers and rustling trees.
Uncle Milton’s Prehistoric Safari Virtual Explorer retails for $34.99. You can learn more at their official website.