It’s one of the unexpected joys of parenting to be thrust into your child’s obsession with a group of animals that were wiped off the face of the earth millions of years ago, and to treat their present-day importance as all-consuming. For whatever reason, it’s not ammonites or giant camels they love — it’s dinosaurs. Thanks to the universal obsession, toy makers have created countless games that revolve around the creatures of the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Mesozoic periods.
Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite dinsoaur apps, video games and board games. Note that this selection is features only games that have, at most, very low levels of violence toward dinosaurs. There are lots of video games, for instance, where you can hunt and kill dinosaurs, but if your child is a young enthusiast of these extinct animals, they probably don’t want to kill the things — no matter how dangerous the giant carnivores were.
Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs
This app adaptation of the classic TV series let’s kids join Ms. Frizzle on dinosaur digs to uncover the bones of up 16 different dinos, then assemble the bones to earn dino cards.
Britannica Kids: Dinosaurs
Kids can geek out hard on this app that’s jam-packed with the wealth of fun facts that Encyclopaedia Britannica is known for, plus amazing pictures and in-app games and puzzles.
Ansel & Clair: World of Dinosaurs
Venture through the second dinosaur epoch with Ansel and Clair, learning about – and interacting with – the dinosaurs the roamed the earth then. The graphics are good, and the ability to build custom dinosaurs is great. Plus, there’s a good bit of geography, geologic history thrown in, to boot.
Dinosaur Board Games
Players must rescue their three dinosaurs and get them to safety before the volcano erupts – but if you draw the dreaded T. Rex card, your dinos better be ready to run (does that sound like a memorable scene from a recent blockbuster about modern-day dinosaurs?). As you play, the volcano is slowly built each time someone draws a volcano card, so get your dinos out fast!
Like a competitive Jurassic Park, players compete to discover and sequence dinosaur DNA, then must build and operate their dinosaur amusement parks. Oh, and they have to keep their visitors alive, too. Piece of cake.
Jurassic Park: Danger
An officially licensed product of the movies, in this game one player controls three dinosaurs — a T. Rex, dilophosaurus, and velociraptor — and hunts for the movies’ human characters, who are controlled by the other players. If the person controlling the dinosaurs catches (eats) three human characters, the dinos win.
Dinosaur Video Games
Lego Jurassic World
Probably the video game best-suited for younger kids, this game encompasses the worlds of the first four Jurassic films (so, not Fallen Kingdom). Kids can play as one of 20 dinosaurs, or they can customize and create their own dinosaur hybrids (tyrano-mosasaurus, anyone?). Free play areas let kids learn to ride the dinosaurs, or just run around with them with no objective.
Dinosaurs are both potential friends and foes in this Old West/dinosaur mashup for Playstation VR. As the mayor of this virtual town, you have to grow the town, keep it safe, and solve the dinosaur conundrum. One solution? Why ride a horse when you can ride a T. Rex. Pretty wild.
Ark: Survival Evolved
A game suited best for older kids, but still without excessive violence, players are stranded on a desert island, where they must provide their own food and shelter, hunting and/or growing crops along the way. Oh, and they also have to deal with the many dinosaurs on this island. Some are peaceful, some are not. You can avoid them, you can hunt them, or — best of all — can tame them. The reward for taming the larger dinos? You get to ride them.