Make Your Own Fossil

Norah McGuinness was an Irish artist who worked as an illustrator. She created pictures for books and set designs for theatre. Even though she was working on lots of different projects she always loved to paint.

Norah McGuinness, Tide Receding at Dublin Bay, N.D.

Norah McGuinness, Tide Receding at Dublin Bay, N.D.

Here is a painting Norah McGuinness made of the sea in Dublin.

When the tide goes out it often leaves things behind on the shore that were once under water.

What do you think has been left behind by the sea in this painting?

Sometimes when the tide goes out it leaves behind a natural treasure called a fossil. Fossils are the remains or traces of plants and animals that lived long ago and are found in the earth, rivers and the sea.

Eventually from the build-up of earth and the pressure of the water, shells and bones are turned into rock and become fossilized.

You are going to make your very own homemade fossil!

What you will need

1 cup of plain flour (not self-raising!!)

1 cup of salt

½ cup of warm water

Baking tray

Large bowl

Shells (if you do not have any shells lying around the house that you have collected from walks on the beach, you can also use different types of leaves that you might find in your back garden)


To make your fossils the first step is to make up your salt dough. In a large bowl mix together the flour and the salt. Slowly add water, mixing it until it forms a dough.

Note: If your dough is too sticky, add a tiny bit more flour or if it is too dry add a tiny bit more water. Your parents can help you create the perfect dough.

When it is ready, take the dough out of the bowl and knead for a minute. Then, tearing a small chunk off create a ball by rolling the dough in between the palms of your hands.

Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand to make a disc. Keep doing this until all your dough is in little discs.

Once all your dough is in discs, press your shells or leaves into the top of the discs and carefully pull them out to reveal the print.

When all of your fossils are ready, line them up on a baking tray and with your parents help, put them in the oven for 1 – 2 hours on 250 degrees.

As the fossils are hardening in the oven, they may need to be turned over once or twice, or even go back in for another hour or two if still doughy after the time is up.

After the fossils have hardened and cooled down look at them under a magnifying glass and see if you can see all the lines and patterns of the shells and leaves. You could also ask your parents to hide the fossils in your garden so you can excavate and dig them up out of the ground later.

Ask a parent or guardian to take a picture of your work and share it with us.
Don’t forget to sign it with your name and age.

We will post your artwork on our website and Instagram account

@modelsligo / #themodelinsideout

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