Ultimate Guide: How to shop for scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts

Finding dinosaur gifts is not difficult. Finding scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts is more of a challenge. Unless you follow these three simple tips.

“It’s not a proper dinosaur!”

My face reddened while my chest swelled with pride. Our LDA was already explaining why the carefully-chosen dinosaur gift was wrong. Loudly. To my bemused mother-in-law. Deafness is a blessing when facing a stern telling off from a six-year-old.

So how do you prevent such outbursts? How do you find scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts for your little dinosaur fan? We’ve got three tips to help.

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How to shop for a scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts, like a stegosaurs who likes to wear Santa hats

3 tips for finding scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts

Finding dinosaur gifts is not difficult (we’ve got some gift guides to help). Finding scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts can be a challenge – unless you use these three simple tricks.

1. Shop at the source

The easiest way to ensure that your dinosaur gifts are scientifically-accurate is to shop at Museum shops. Not only are you supporting your local museum when you do, but you can rest assured your gifts will at least not be grossly inaccurate.

They have some fantastic merchandise you can’t find elsewhere, too. Check out the list of our favourite scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts from the Natural History Museum.

How to choose scientifically-accurate  dinosaur gifts, like an ankylosaur in a santa hat

2. Buy brands you can trust

If you don’t feel confident enough to assess the accuracy of a dinosaur’s characteristics, buy brands you can trust. No, I am not trying to sell you a car or any pharmaceutical products.

Some companies, such as Schleich, have a long history of working with palaeontologists to ensure their dinosaurs represent the latest scientific findings:

… commitment to quality starts well before the choice of materials. … Once we’re satisfied with a model down to every tiniest hair or scale, it’s time for experts such as zoologists to cast a critical gaze. These experts help us by checking whether our initial design faithfully captures all the distinctive features of the species in question. Only when everyone is satisfied is our mission complete: namely, to create a replica of nature that combines love and passion with scientific knowledge, so that kids can have fun playing while simultaneously learning something about the world around them and the wonders of nature.


This level of care is not just for zoo animals but for dinosaurs, too. Schleich admits that their dinosaur models can take up to two months to prepare. However, it does mean that Schleich gifts will be scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts.

And I can confirm: the latest dinosaur we bought from Schleich was a Utahraptor – with feathers!

Did you know that some of the best dinosaur museums produce their own products, especially books? These include the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History and the London Museum of Natural History. Naturally, these are guaranteed to be scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts.

Generally, if your gifts come from a reputable dinosaur museum brand, they will be scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts. The Smithsonian has confirmed that if a book has a Smithsonian seal on it, they’ve approved the content for scientific accuracy.

(And if a Smithsonian book is missing the seal, use trick number 3 to verify whether the book is inaccurate or just dated.)

Brachiosaurus in a santa hat, with its front legs clearly longer than its back legs and its tail not dragging on the ground.

3. Learn a little about dinosaurs

The best and most flexible – but not necessarily the easiest – way to know that your dinosaur gift is scientifically accurate is to learn about dinosaurs.

It’s not enough to have passed Dinosaur 101 (post coming soon) and know a few names. Instead, you might need to know a few key and easy to verify characteristics. Here’s

some simple characteristics you can check:

  • Raptors (Coelurosaurian theropods) had feathers. These include Velociraptor, Therizinosaurus, Deinonychus, Dromaeosaurus and Troodon and other dinosaurs that are the direct ancestors of modern birds. While feather evidence has not been found for all dinosaurs of this group, enough has been found to assume that all of members of the group had feathers. Yes, the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park are inaccurate.
  • Whether T-Rex had feathers is a matter of scientific debate. Because many therapods had feathers, T-Rex should have had them too. However, recent research into skin impressions failed to find any evidence of feathers. T-Rex might still have had plumage on their back, head or tail. And Juvenile T-Rexes may have had downy feathers, even if adults did not.
  • Larger non-feathered therapod dinosaurs, such as Allosaurus, Dilophosaurus and Spinosaurus should have claws facing each other. Many toys – and I have looked – depict these dinosaurs with their palms facing downwards, a position that is impossible. Curiously, older lifesized models at dinosaur parks often also show the palms facing downwards.
  • T-Rex should only have two fingers on each hand. Other therapods should have three.
  • Stegosaurus should have 17 or possibly 19 back plates, depending on the species. Count away!
  • Long-necked dinosaurs – the sauropods – do not have swan-like curved necks. Diplodocus, Amargasaurus and Apatosaurus have small heads and flat backs. They would swing their necks back and forth while eating plants that were they height of their back or lower. Their neck should be mostly straight and their head should be about the same height as their shoulder.
  • Other long-necked dinosaurs (Macronarians), like Brachiosaurus and Camarasaurus have font legs that were longer than their back legs. They had bigger much heads than the Diplodocoidea and ate from tall trees. Their necks flowed gently from the angle of their back without a sharp bend at their shoulders.
  • Generally, dinosaurs did not drag their tails on the ground.

Print out a copy of this list/post and use it when searching for scientifically-accurate dinosaur gifts online. You can also take it with you when you shop.

Toy (Utah)raptor in a santa hat. This dinosaur is not scientifically accurate as- missing its feathers and has its palms pointing downwards.

Shop smart!

Grab the list before grabbing your dinosaur gifts and follow these tips to ensure that your gifts are educational, scientifically accurate and fun. And avoid the bemused expressions.

Do you think it’s important for dinosaur gifts to be scientifically accurate?

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